Necessities of life


The food ‘langar’ set up with the Saylani Trust by tWhe government under its Ehsaas programme is sadly perhaps a necessity at this point in Pakistan’s history. We see on a daily basis many other soup kitchens similar to it running in various places, set up by various individuals or charities. According to international organizations charity, and especially food charity, is one of the highest in the world in Pakistan.
It is not uncommon to see people handing out rice or other items outside their homes and some businesses at least provide their leftovers to patients in hospitals or children in orphanages. However, given that the World Food Programme reports that 43 percent of Pakistanis confront food insecurity and 18 percent from amongst these severely lack access to food, the soup kitchens may possibly help. Prime Minister Imran Khan who shared a meal at the langar with scores of other people has said that 112 centres distributing free food are to be set up across the country.
We appreciate the government’s concern for the poor in a country where almost 50 percent of children are stunted. Out of the 113 countries listed in the Global Food Security Index Pakistan in 2016 stood at 78th place. Since then it has sunk lower down the list and falls behind India and several African countries in its ability to prevent hunger. Pakistan’s population is rated by international experts as one of the most malnourished in the world, with the dependence on agriculture for a living linked to this. The malnutrition among children is of course especially disturbing.
It is also important to the dignity of every man and woman that they be able to earn their own food without depending on handouts on a regular basis. There is every reason to believe that if proper policies were put in place every Pakistan citizen would be able to earn enough to feed their families.
It is important that while soup kitchens are used on a short-term basis to offer food to those who have too little, in the longer-term emphasis is placed on resource allocation, the creation of jobs, a re-examination of the agriculture policy and other factors that can help us understand why malnourishment in Pakistan has increased steadily since the early 1990s. Controlling population growth is also central to this.
While the soup kitchens are an excellent philanthropic measure in a country where philanthropy is already widespread and extremely generous, longer-term planning is needed so that food can be available in every household without need to resort to langars and soup kitchens or charity from wealthier individuals.