Affordability and Security:
The world produces far more food than needed to feed its entire population of 7.6 billion people today. Yet, there is hunger in many parts of the world with 800 million people going hungry globally. There are two main reasons for it: Affordability and Conflict. The true cost of a meal should be calculated in terms of the percentage of average daily income in each location. By this measure, food is most affordable in North America and Europe and most expensive in Africa. The continent of Africa suffers both the crises of war and affordability. People going hungry in parts of the Middle East, particularly Syria and Yemen, are also victims of ongoing conflicts.
|Simple Meal Cost as Percentage of Average Daily Income. Source: WFP|
A simple meal consisting of daal (pulses), vegetables, roti (bread) and chawal (rice) costs 7.6% of average daily income in Pakistan, according to a World Food Program report. It is more expensive than the cost of a similar meal in Bangladesh (5.4%), India (4.5%) and Myanmar (7%). But it is cheaper than Nepal (13%) and Tajikistan (15%).
The costs in Asia and Africa are far higher than the cost of a similar simple meal of just 0.6% of average daily income in New York. The highest food costs are in the African nations of Malawi (45%) and South Sudan (155%).
Social Entrepreneurs Fight Hunger:
Tons of perfectly good food is discarded daily by restaurants and supermarkets when it reaches its stamped expiration date. It is the same story with leftover prepared food after corporate lunches and dinners and parties. Hannah Dehradunwala and Komal Ahmad, both Pakistani-American, have developed apps to match excess food with those in need of food.
Hannah Dehradunwala co-founded Transfernation, a nonprofit startup with the aim of alleviating hunger beginning with New York City and Karachi. She has partnered with a fellow NYU student Samir Goel, an American of Indian descent. It's essentially an app and a website that enable leftover food at restaurants and corporate events to be distributed to the hungry.
At this year's conference of Pakistani-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Komal Ahmad of Copia described how her company is helping solve hunger by reducing waste of millions of tons of perfectly good, healthy and edible surplus food. Her company's smartphone app matches those with excess food with those in need of food. The idea was born when Komal saw University of California at Berkeley's cafeteria regularly throwing away un-eaten food. It took her a couple of hours to persuade the cafeteria director to donate the food instead of throwing it away. His main concern was liability if someone ate the food and got sick and sued the university. Komal explained to him that a good samaritan law protects donors from liability in such cases. That was the key to getting him to agree to begin donating surplus food to charity.
Komal's business helps donors, recipients and Copia as the match-maker. Donors get tax deduction for the in-kind donation, the hungry get fed and Copia receives a commission for their work. Cpoia is a Y Combinator company. It received its seed funding from Pakistani-American Amar Hanafi, a charter member of OPEN, Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs.
Local Charity in Pakistan:
Pakistanis donate generously to local charities in the country in the form of religiously mandated donations such as "zakat, sadaqa and fitrana". One of the key measures of empathy is generosity to others, the kind of generosity demonstrated in Pakistan by the likes of late Abul Sattar Edhi. The Edhi Foundation set up by the great man is funded mainly by small donations from ordinary people in Pakistan.
Anatol Lieven, author of "Pakistan: A Hard Country" wrote the following tribute to the Mr. Edhi:
"There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in an arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its elected representatives - and to see the flag of Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality."
What Professor Anatol Lieven describes as "human religion and human morality" is the very essence of the Huqooq-ul-Ibad (Human Rights) in Islam. Abdus Sattar Edhi understood it well when he said, "there's no religion higher than humanity".
Edhi understood the meaning of what the Quran, the Muslim holy book, says in chapter 2 verse 177:
"Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteous is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms."
A recent article written by Shazia M. Amjad and Muhammad Ali and published in Stanford Social Innovation Review said that "Pakistan is a generous country. It contributes more than one percent of its GDP to charity, which pushes it into the ranks of far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3 percent GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2 percent of GDP), and around twice what India gives relative to GDP."
OECD says corporate donations in Pakistan have increased from $4.5 million to $56.4 million over the last 15 years. Corporate donations are dwarfed by individual donations made as zakat, sadaqa and fitrana as commanded by the Quran.
In addition to zakat, sadaqa and fitrana, Pakistanis spent about $3.5 billion on Eid ul Azha in 2017, according to analysts. This included sacrifice of $2.8 billion worth of livestock and another $700 million on clothes, shoes, jewelry and various services. This amount represent a huge transfer of wealth from urban to rural population, including many rural poor, in the country. It also brings philanthropic donations of Rs. 2.5 billion to Rs. 3 billion ($25-30 million) worth of animal hides which are sold to the nation's leather industry.
A Michigan State University (MSU) study of 63 countries finds that Pakistanis have higher empathy for others than people in their neighboring countries. It also finds that the United States is among the most empathetic nations in the world.
The MSU researchers, led by William J. Chopik, analyzed the data from an online survey on empathy completed by more than 104,000 people from around the world.
The survey measured people’s compassion for others and their tendency to imagine others’ point of view. Countries with small sample sizes were excluded (including most nations in Africa). All told, 63 countries were ranked in the study, according to MSUToday, a publication of Michigan State University.
The month of Ramzan heightens Muslims' empathy for the world's 800 million hungry. It drives Islamic philanthropy in the form of fitra, sadaqa and zakat during this month of fasting and prayer. This annual giving puts Pakistan among the ranks of the most generous in the world. It can also inspire social entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to world hunger.
Study Says Pakistanis Have Higher Empathy Than Neighbors
Comparing Median Wealth and Income in India and Pakistan
Eid ul Azha Economy
Foreign Aid Pouring in India
Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Islam
Philanthropy in Pakistan
Panama Leaks Scandal
Misaq-e-Madina Guided Quaid-e-Azam's Vision of Pakistan
Interfaith Relations in Islam
The Tensions Underlying Pakistan’s Ramadan Decision
The country has exempted Ramadan gatherings from its lockdown, illustrating the temptation, and the risks, of coming together.
By Yasmeen Serhan
There is no modern precedent for adapting Ramadan to a pandemic, nor does the Koran exactly come with detailed instructions on what to do if one occurs. But there are some clues. “The major texts … they all have chapters on plagues,” Suhaib Webb, an imam and a resident scholar at the Islamic Center at New York University, told me. The Muslim world was wracked by plagues from the sixth century to the 14th, influencing the philosophy of Islamic scholars who lived through them. One, Ibn Hajar, lost several children to the Black Death. “He talked about how one of the virtues of living in a pandemic is that you learn to appreciate things you may have not sought before,” Webb said. Since this pandemic began, Webb said he has been researching early Islamic history and hadith literature, or sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, to help inform his weekly sermons, which now take place online. He isn’t the only one finding spiritual guidance this way: In one hadith I’ve seen cited plenty this Ramadan, the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have told his followers: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”
Webb’s main focus is making sure that people have the information they need to celebrate Ramadan this year as best, and as safely as, they can. “It’s just trying to make sure people know that religiously you can stay home,” he said. “You don’t have to go to taraweeh; you don’t have to go to jummah [Friday prayers]; here’s how you do janazah,” the funeral prayer.
“We have so many acts of worship that are conditioned on community,” Webb added. “The bigger challenge has been mourning alone.”
Despite all the challenges of celebrating Ramadan this year, I’ve actually found myself enjoying it. That the holy month happened to fall amid this crisis has in some ways felt like a blessing: When it feels as if everything normal has been upended, having something comforting and familiar to focus on has been nice, even in a slightly altered state. Unlike in previous years, I don’t have to contend with commuting to and from work while fasting, nor do I have to worry about passing up friends’ invitations to meet for coffee or lunch during the daytime. And though I can’t celebrate with loved ones the way I might like, this Ramadan has given me something that previous ones haven’t: more time—to pray; to reflect; and to take stock of everything I’m grateful for at a time when doing so feels especially important.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. Several Muslim writers have recounted finding their own silver linings this Ramadan, in its emphasis on perseverance and patience and the opportunity it presents to observe the month the way the Prophet Muhammad did—who himself began his journey to prophethood in solitude. “Islam does value interval isolation,” Webb said. “It’s seen as an important spiritual practice.”
So too is the act of charity, or zakat—another essential part of Ramadan that has manifested itself in new ways this year. In addition to people donating food and money, as is customary during the month, many mosques have stepped up in the fight against the coronavirus, with some operating as makeshift hospices, mortuaries, and food banks.
When I spoke with Gulamali from the Muslim Council of Britain during the first few days of Ramadan, she said she also felt positive about the holy month arriving when it did. “I think Ramadan has come at the best time for people,” she said. “When you look at the true essence of Ramadan, it’s compassion and acting in service to others, and I think there has been no other time when compassion and service to others has been so abundant in Muslim communities.”
Pakistan: Philanthropists, charities help poor during Ramadan
Despite a surge in coronavirus cases and rising inflation, grocery stores and supermarkets in Karachi, the country’s commercial capital, are overcrowded with customers ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Neatly wrapped packets and boxes of lentils, flour, rice, cooking oil, tea, spices, beverages, and other food items are arranged in shelves at a sprawling supermarket in the city’s eastern district.
Citizens are buying more than the usual not only to cope with the extra consumption, but to distribute among the less fortunate, or those who have been unemployed due to an economic slowdown aided by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The downturn has particularly impacted those below poverty line – nearly 25% of Pakistan’s 210 million population.
“Ramadan is the perfect time to help others,” Mohammad Younus, a customer, told Anadolu agency while maneuvering through a crowded corridor with an overstuffed trolley.
Yunus is one of the millions of Pakistanis who distribute rations, alms, and clothing to the less fortunate in Ramadan, when devotees abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset.
“This time, the poor need and deserve more. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs over the past year due to COVID-19 as businesses have been hit hard,” he said. “I’ve been distributing rations to 15-20 people on the eve of Ramadan for years, but this year I plan to double the figure … we are duty-bound to provide them relief during the holy month.”
There are similar scenes in Judia Bazar, one of the city’s largest and oldest wholesale markets.
“We have bought double the rations compared to the previous year due to the rising demand,” Mohammad Yusuf, a businessman who runs a small charity in New Karachi Town, told Anadolu Agency.
This has given some hope to traders for a slight improvement in otherwise sluggish business activity. “We expect more sales this time,” Anas Sultan, a grocery wholesaler, told Anadolu Agency, adding that they relaxed credit deadlines for small retailers “as they were in trouble.”
Most Pakistanis prefer to pay their zakat – the obligatory Muslim charity tax – during Ramadan, expecting more rewards from God.
Zakat, which is “purifying” one’s earnings or savings, is one of Islam’s five pillars. Any Muslim who owns a certain amount of money, gold, silver, or other assets is bound to pay 2.5% of his or her excess annual wealth to the needy.
In Pakistan it is mandated and collected by the government. Apart from helping the less fortunate, zakat also assists charities run their operations throughout the year.
These organizations help stem the economic burden on low-income groups.
Al-Khidmat Foundation, which also runs a countrywide chain of charity hospitals, including a modern facility in the southern desert area of Thar, plans to provide rations to 500,000 people across the country during Ramadan.
“Our focus is on the remote areas and people who have been affected by COVID-19,” Abdul Shakoor, the foundation’s president, told Anadolu Agency. He shared that 10% of his organization’s annual budget is met through zakat.
The foundation is also carrying out several projects, mainly for the provision of clean water in collaboration with Turkey’s state-run aid agency – Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).
“Charity is hardwired in the blood of Pakistanis. Almost every Pakistani, in one way or the other donates something,” Shakoor said.
The Saylani Welfare Trust also plans providing 100,000 ration bags to the underprivileged in Karachi during the month, according to Amjad Chamriya, an official who deals with the charity’s ration distribution process.
The charity says it will also serve Iftar (sunset meal to break the fast) to around 250,000 people.
‘We’d have died of hunger’: the charity kitchens feeding millions in Pakistan
Lost jobs and soaring prices have pushed 5m Pakistanis to the edge. As demand soars at Ramadan, charities cannot cope
here is a crowd outside the Khana Ghar food kitchen. Men wait patiently on one side as a group of women push forward, clutching photocopies of identity cards. “Every second day of Ramadan we give one-month’s food rations because we close our kitchen,” says Parveen Saeed.
“But we can only give one bag to one family, and we need their ID cards to check that, says Saeed, 63. “There are more and more mouths to feed than we can cope with.”
Saeed has been operating the kitchen in one of Karachi’s poorer districts for more than 20 years, and says she has never known it to be so busy. Pakistan is experiencing a series of crises that is pushing people to the brink.
Food and fuel prices, already on the rise before the Ukraine war began, have rocketed over the past year. The price of a kilo of flour has risen from 58 to 155 rupees (45p) since the start of 2022. Rice has more than doubled, while petrol has gone from 145 rupees a litre last year to 272 rupees now.
This is compounded by record inflation rates – surging in February to 31.5%, the highest in half a century. This week, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association warned that the country’s textile industry is facing “imminent collapse” due to production cuts. About 7 million people have already lost their jobs in the sector since the Covid pandemic. Another 7 million jobs are at risk in the steel industry, where factories are closing as costs rise.
The World Food Programme predicts 5.1 million Pakistanis will be facing severe hunger by next week – an increase of 1.1 million people from the previous quarter.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, the problems have brought long queues at food banks. Ahmed Edhi, from the Edhi Foundation, which has provided free meals for more than 40 years, says he is seeing “well-dressed men from offices” coming to the city’s centres.
“These people are not beggars, they have become destitute,” says Saeed, as she points to the queue outside her kitchen in Taiser Town, Karachi. “Where are the jobs?”
Before Covid, meals for 6,000 people a day were provided here. The number rose to 7,000 during lockdowns, but in the past four months the figure has been 8,200.
“Food prices have hit the sky,” says Saeed, who charges three rupees (less than 1p) for a plate of curry and roti flatbread for those who can afford it, and gives it for free to those who cannot. Some days, she does not have enough. “It is heartbreaking as they have waited for a couple of hours, only to leave empty-handed.”
Pakistan’s political turmoil has diverted attention away from such daily issues. “Sadly, there is no conversation, no debate within political circles about how the daily wage-earner is feeding his family at a time when the prices of food have skyrocketed,” says Fawad Chaudhry, a minister in the previous Tehreek e Insaf government of Imran Khan.
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