KARACHI     -     Around 1.3 billion tone of food is wasted every year around the globe which amounts to US$1 trillion of wasted or lost food as the world food production for human consumption is 3.9 billion tones.

Only one-quarter of all wasted food could feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world who suffer from hunger. The world produces enough food to feed all seven billion people but due to uneven distribution around one billion remain undernourished and two billion people suffer from hidden hunger. Zero hunger could save lives of 3.1 million children a year.

These views were expressed by Dr Abid Jalaluddin Shaikh, Provincial Program Manager-Food Fortification Program, Nutrition International, Pakistan on Wednesday. He was speaking to a seminar held at the Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Karachi.

The department has organised a food exhibition and a seminar to mark World Food Day. The department also arranged panel discussions to shed light on the issue and how to overcome the problem with minimum efforts.

He shared that some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life whereas around 780 million of those people live in developing regions.

Dr Abid Shaikh said that 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world with 23 million in Africa alone. “Within every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases. In Pakistan, anemia, iron and zinc deficiency, and Vitamin A and D deficiency are the most common diseases among children under the age of five years.”

The Chairperson, Department of Food Science and Technology, KU, Dr Shahina Naz expressed that this is so unfortunate that humans have stepped on the moon, explored the deepest ocean, split the atom, and mapped human genome and other extraordinary exciting activities but still talking about the possibility of a zero hunger by 2030.

She informed the audience that every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition. “Owing to undernutrition 45 percent people are underweight while micronutrient deficiency causing improper growth and inactive life whereas 41 million people die every year due to obesity.”

Dr Shahina Naz said that 6.7 billion ton e of milk is wasted and fish production is one million ton per year but per capita consumption is only two-kilogram in Pakistan. The country has 8000 edible plant species of which 600 species are with nutritive and medical value whereas some wild fruits have better nutritive value than cultivated crops.

The Assistant Professor, Food Science and Technology Department, KU, Dr S M Ghufran Saeed, said that world hunger is on the rise again after a period of decline.

He mentioned that conflicts, extreme weather events linked to climate change, economic slowdown, rapid increase in overweight and obesity levels are revising progress made in the flight against hunger and malnutrition.

He shared that 1.9 billion people, more than a quarter of the world’s population is overweight of which 3.4 million people die each year due to overweight. He said that 67.7 percent people of Federal Administrative Tribal Areas are facing food insecurity problem while 61.2 percent of Balochistan is also facing the same issue.

He added that 56.2 percent population of Kyber Pakhtunkhwa, 52.4 percent inhabitants of Gilgit Baltistan, 46.9 percent residents of Pakistan Administrative Kashmir, 44.3 percent population of Sindh, 38.5 percent people of Punjab and 23.6 percent population of Islamabad are facing food insecurity issue.

The KU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi said that hunger and malnutrition is no doubt a very serious issue. The speakers and panelists have highlighted the root causes and suggest some doable remedies to overcome the problems.

“I strongly hope that the policy makers, government bodies, food producers, manufacturers, agencies related to the food security and safety, consumers and academia will do work together to find out the ways to eradicate hunger from the country and reduce the malnutrition problems to make a healthy and happy nation.”

“I urge the philanthropists and industrialists to support the department of food science and technology generously so that the department could be a centre of excellence in the field of food science and technology.”