Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Women and Food in Pakistan

“We girls and mothers eat last, after my four brothers, cousin and our fathers have finished. Sometimes there is almost nothing left to eat – but we are used to this.”
Nasreena Bibi, aged 12 years.

Nasreena and her family are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. They live with her uncle and his family in the town of Kohat, 30 miles from Peshawar, the province’s capital. She was speaking to the UN Office for co-ordination of humanitarian affairs.

Nasreena, her mother and her aunt cook for the fourteen people living in the house. But as is so often the case, the women get only a tiny amount of the food they’ve cooked. Men are considered to need more food than women, which can lead to problems of malnutrition. 58% of those affected by malnourishment problems are women.

The situation can only get worse as IDPs and refugees from nearby Afghanistan increase the numbers living in the district. The people have fled from Taliban militants. Their attacks on any ideology but their own and their battles with the Pakistani army have pushed people into the cities and towns and swollen populations, making an already strained food situation worse. And as always seems to be the case, women and girls end up at the bottom of the list.

The thinking is that the men, who are mostly labourers, need more food than the women. Health workers are trying to educate people about the risks if expectant mothers, or girls who will one day become mothers, do not get enough to eat, but it is a long, slow process.

World In Need has a team based in Peshawar and we try to alleviate the problems through sponsorship of children. As a condition of sponsorship, all children, girls as well as boys, must go to school, and at the school, they receive a nutritious meal each day. Our longer term goals are to ensure the children receive the best education they can get, and thus achieve their fullest potential, which will improve life not just for them and their families, but ultimately for their entire community.

Sponsoring a child is not expensive by western standards. For each child, the cost of sponsoring is £20 a month (about $30), or 66 pence ($1) a day. Almost a throwaway sum to most of us, it can literally mean the difference between life and death to the children we help.

For more information on the work we do in Pakistan, and the children we support, please visit our website, http://www.worldinneed.co.uk and click on the Pakistani flag at the side of the home page.

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