FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 40

Showers of misery

Pakistan faces a more challenging time after recent rains and floods in parts of the country, where people were already facing serious issues of basic amenities and rights. Its damaging effects will not only be felt by locals but people of the whole country in years and decades to come.

The rains and floods have badly affected people and their livelihoods in the impoverished areas of the country. Perhaps, they suffered the most because they have been neglected by successive governments in the past. Balochistan, Sindh and South Punjab have faced huge losses of life and property. Their infrastructure, which was already in ruins, will take decades to repair and make the logistics of food supplies, like vegetables and fruits, difficult to reach in big cities. It is feared the country would face a serious shortage of food supplies and high inflation. Prices of vegetables and fruits have already increased by 40pc. The country’s chronic imbalance of payment could worsen if the government has to import more food and grains.

According to The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 1 million people have been affected by heavy rains and flash floods across Pakistan this monsoon season. A total of 580 people, including 224 children and 114 women, have been reportedly killed while 939 injured, with the southern provinces suffering the worst. This year’s monsoon season resulted in record-breaking rainfall with 133pc more rain than in the past 30 years.

The Pakistan Food Security and Agriculture Working Group (FSAWG) has estimated that over 1 million acres of standing crops have been damaged in floods. Furthermore, an Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis of acute food insecurity has projected that over 955,000 people in flood-affected areas of Gwadar, Karan, Kech, Loralai, Nushki, Pangur, Pishin, Washuk and Zhob in Balochistan will face severe food insecurity between July and November this year.

In addition to water and flood damage, people in disaster areas are also grappling with water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhea (AWD), respiratory tract infections (RTI), malaria and skin infections.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the average rainfall this year was 267mm, compared with the 30-year average of 119mm. Since the beginning of the monsoon season in mid-June this year, more than 650 people have died across the country and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Initial estimates say more than 100 districts have been affected by the torrential rains. Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and most impoverished province, has suffered the most. According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), more than 200 people have died in the province, 58 of them children, and more than 10,000 people were displaced from their homes. Balochistan authorities say the floods have damaged more than 40,000 houses and nearly 700,000 acres of crops.

In Sindh, 166 people have died and 573 injured in recent rains. According to initial estimates, over 2,849 cattle also died, while 47,399 houses and standing crops over 810,683 acres were damaged in the province. Over 1,002 kilometers of 256 roads with 18 bridges were also damaged.

In South Punjab, hill torrents from the Suleman Mountain Range affected over 100,000 people besides damaging nearly 4,000 houses and over 200,000 acre crops in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur. At least 23 people have also died so far.

As the country faces the devastation, its ranking on food security is feared to slip further, though it has shown some improvement in the Global Hunger Index recently. This year, Pakistan, with a score of 24.7, is ranked 92 out of 116 countries on the Global Hunger Index. India has been ranked at 101 but other countries of the region showed better ranking as compared to Pakistan. Sri Lanka was ranked 65th whereas Nepal and Bangladesh were ranked 76th. The data from the latest United Nations report is alarming as the number of hungry and poor people has been rising again for several years. In the world today, some 811 million people suffer from hunger and 41 million live on the brink of famine whereas 47 countries will not even reach low hunger levels by 2030; as many as 28 of these countries are in Africa. The chapter on Pakistan shows that the situation regarding hunger has been improving since 2000 as the ratio was 36.7 in 2000, at 33.1 in 2006, at 32.1 in 2012 and in 2021, the points further dropped to 24.7. It is encouraging to note that Pakistan’s ranking on the hunger index is improving steadily but it is a matter of serious concern that we even lag behind Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Experts say climate change is a major factor for the unprecedented precipitation levels in this year’s monsoon season, increased glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) risk in the northern areas, and flash floods across the country, especially the southern provinces. However, they have also indicated that investment in developmental infrastructure, as well as effective rescue response by the provincial and federal authorities may have somewhat lessened the adverse impacts of flash floods and torrential rains.

Successive governments have failed to take steps to mitigate problems of people. Since its inception, the country has faced the same situation every year in the monsoon season but the government’s efforts are limited only to so-called relief activities and compensations. People of the country deserve more than it.