Pakistan’s real Emergency: 40 Million Malnourished, Illiterate, Thirsty Children

The silence surrounding Pakistan’s most serious threats
There’s been much discussion lately about the “water kit,” a mysterious contraption that a purported Pakistani engineer insists will enable cars to use water as fuel.

Yet missing from this debate is a basic but critical fact: Pakistan is dangerously water-deficient. Per capita availability hovers just above the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters. In several decades, availability could plummet to 550 cubic meters.

So even if this bizarre water car somehow defied the laws of physics and managed to work, it would be unsustainable — unless it used the Arabian Sea as a giant filling station, or guzzled bottled water.

It’s not surprising that few have mentioned this water dilemma. Water resource issues —and other human security topics like food security, public health, and education — are repeatedly drowned out of Pakistani public debate by the incessant din surrounding militancy, political drama, and the US-Pakistan relationship.

This is unfortunate, because human security issues affect so many more Pakistanis than do extremism, political infighting, or US policies.

By no means am I minimising or trivialising the 35,000 Pakistanis killed in terror – and counter-terror related violence, the scores of tribal residents traumatised by drone strikes, or the many Karachiites harmed by their city’s unrest.

However, this doesn’t compare to the 40 to 55 million Pakistanis without access to safe drinking water. Or to the nearly 60 per cent — that’s almost two-thirds of the total population — designated as food insecure (“Pakistan will lose an entire generation to malnutrition,”warns a UNICEF officer). Or to the more than 40 million of Pakistan’s 70 million school-age children (ages 5 to 19) not in school.

This frequently brings deadly consequences. Yet how often, other than at the occasional conference or report release, is anything heard about the 1.2 million Pakistani lives lost to waterborne disease each year — and those of the 630 children lost each day? Or about the malnutrition responsible for about half of Pakistan’s child deaths? Or about the 46 of every 1,000 babies born dead — the world’s highest stillbirth rate?

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