Muslim Aid is today (22 February) launching an appeal for aid to assist drought-stricken parts of southern Pakistan which are receiving little international attention although some 5 million people are caught in the grip of the prolonged dry weather.
“The drought in Balochistan and Sindh is going under the radar," says CEO of Muslim Aid, Jehangir Malik OBE. “Millions of people are suffering, and their livestock is facing ruin. It is absolutely vital that aid reaches these pockets and agencies respond as soon as possible.”
The slow but relentless onset of drought has led to food insecurity and has affected some 3.4 million livestock, on which many people depend for their livelihoods, across 18 districts in Balochistan and 8 in Sindh, according to local authorities.
Muslim Aid has prepared a drought response plan which is aligned with the overall priorities of the government of Pakistan. Both provinces have declared emergencies and requested support, while a national emergency calling on donors is said to be being considered in Islamabad. Keeping in view the severity of the situation, Muslim Aid has declared it as an orange alert -II which means that we are going to provide assistance at scale. As per our plan, we will be reaching out to 133,660 people in the four worst districts of Balochistan.
Some of the most severely affected districts are Kharan, Nushki, Washuk and Chagai, situated in North West of Baluchistan province, and are initially prioritised by Muslim Aid for this response. Our emergency response team, deployed to Balochistan since 25 January 2019, carried out assessments and collected first-hand information, witnessing the dried-up water sources and skeletal cattle. Muslim Aid has already located 900-1000 families in Chagai and is organising to provide dry food and animal feed, but much more is needed. It plans are to reach 19,095 families in the next 9 months.
Mr Saadullah, resident of the village of Meer Ayub Khan, told Muslim Aid emergency response field team: “We are facing water shortage, livestock diseases and deaths, agriculture and health challenges. We bring drinking water … from tehsil Daalbadien Bani. Our village is 35 kilometres away... It took at least one hour by road... This is very much difficult for us to manage the fodder and water needs of our livestock during this drought situation”.
The two provinces have been hit by recurring drought over several years. Climate change is likely a factor. One assessment points out that since 2013 rainfall has decreased 74% and this coexists with poverty. According to the UN, 71% of Balochistan’s 12 million people live in poverty with high malnutrition among children.
Local and international agencies are monitoring the situation. Meanwhile, the Pakistan government is targeting $96.3 million for drought relief and recovery work. Food packs, clean-water provision, medical equipment, sanitation provision and help for the recovery for livestock are critical.
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