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Pakistan hit by rising food prices

Since huge swathes of crops were destroyed across the flood-hit areas of Pakistan, victims are now facing another blow in their struggle to survive. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) reports that food prices in Pakistan have risen 10 per cent since the disaster. This means that many families who lost all their own produce and have little money in their pockets, are now being hit twice, unable to afford the food they need.

A correspondent for the BBC visited Sindh province, one of the worst hit regions and looked round food markets in Sukkur. Here, stalls were well-supplied with a range of fruit and vegetables. But with all the local crops washed away, most of the food had been brought in by truck from other provinces, such as Punjab, Baluchistan and Rawalpindi. With the extra journey time and petrol expenses, shopkeepers had been forced to raise their prices and some customers are simply unable to afford the increases. One woman who came to buy food from the market said that before the floods she would have purchased a number of different vegetables. Now she was only able to afford a small bag of okra, which was costing her 80 rupees per kilo, compared with 50 rupees before the flooding.

Across the country, it is estimated that as many as 10 million people are in need of food aid and around 2 million people are still going without any food assistance. Malnutrition was already at high levels before the floods, with 40 per cent of children under five in Pakistan underweight. Now aid organisations are increasingly concerned malnutrition rates will rise even further.

In northern areas of the country, there is the additional problem of how to ship food supplies to the communities still in need. In the Swat region of north-western Pakistan, winter is fast approaching and snow will soon fall. In this region, the floods destroyed the main crop of potatoes and families in Utror have been relying on food aid from international bodies. Here, the World Food Programme and US government have been providing the population with sacks of flour, high-energy biscuits and cooking oil, flown in daily by helicopters. But soon the flights will stop and any supplies will need to be brought by land. Since many roads remain damaged and with snow falls often reaching a depth of 4-5 metres in the middle of winter, households are worried their food lifeline will disappear. Most have no stocks for the winter and around a third of families are heading for lower ground before the snow comes. For those that remain, with little food and few prospects for employment, it is going to prove a long, hard winter.

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