Climate Conversations – Malnutrition Increases On The Horizon In South Asia

May 30th, 2012 | By | Category: Agriculture, Bangladesh, Food, Health and Climate Change, India, Lessons, Livelihood, Nepal, News, Pakistan, Vulnerability

Alertnet: Malnutrition is worsening in developing countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India because of the impacts of climate change – particularly on water resources, a key input for producing food for more than a billion people in the region.

Climate change and rising temperatures have now badly disturbed food production patterns and have deepened food insecurity.  Malnutrition is particularly increasing in the countries where large populations are dependent on rain-fed subsistence farming.

Climate change, growing use of food crops as a source of fuel and soaring food prices are three major challenges that threaten efforts to overcome food insecurity and malnutrition according to ‘Impact of Climate Change and Bioenergy on Nutrition‘ a joint report by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

According to the report, food security has four dimensions: food availability, access to food, stability of supply and access, and the safety and health of food.

Besides climate change and rising demand for bioenergy, other factors can hamper efforts to reduce malnutrition, including widespread land degradation and scarcity of fresh water resources, and structural shifts in the food and agricultural systems.


That means some not-very-obvious ways of cutting malnutrition could have a big effect. That’s things like cutting emissions of greenhouse gases through improved transport, adopting better food producing techniques and making the choice to use greener energy.

Global population is expected to gallop up by 37 percent by 2050, to 9.2 billion. Global economic and food experts at the World Bank and FAO predict that economic growth of 6 percent per year in developing countries during the next few years, combined with rapid urbanization, will drive demand for food to new heights just as food production contracts.

They warn of substantial risks to food production from the spread of plant pests, animal diseases and invasive species across international borders – something climate change could worsen.

Subsistence farmers in developing countries, dependent on agriculture, will be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Other groups similarly at risk of worsening food security include pastoralists, indigenous people, coastal communities and artisanal fishermen. Changing weather patterns linked to climate change will cause more intense and longer droughts, and the frequency of heavy precipitation events is increasing over most of the world’s land areas. There is likelihood that heat waves and future tropical cyclones will become more intense.

Droughts and water scarcity can reduce the diversity of diets and bring down overall food consumption, worsening malnutrition. Flooding, sea level rise and worsening storm surges could expose more people to diarrhoea and other diseases, lowering their capacity to use food efficiently.

Adapting to the coming pressures will be crucial. Adaptation actions could include extension or intensification of existing risk management or simply efforts to produce more food.

Just as important will be making infrastructure climate change-resilient and building capacity to adapt broadly into communities and institutions.

By: Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are development reporters based in Karachi, Pakistan.



Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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