Drought conditions in Sindh, Balochistan worsening

Updated January 29, 2019

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Abrupt decline in rainfall in most of the upland areas of the province has caused a complete drying up of the surface drinking water resources and has decreased water output from springs and tubewells. — File photo
Abrupt decline in rainfall in most of the upland areas of the province has caused a complete drying up of the surface drinking water resources and has decreased water output from springs and tubewells. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The drought situation in Sindh and Balochistan is rapidly developing into one of the worst disasters in the country. To mitigate the situation, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is setting up a Disaster Emergency Relief Fund.

Take a look: How a prolonged drought is damaging lives and livelihoods in many parts of Pakistan

A case has been sent to the regional office of the International Federation of Red Cross Society in Kuala Lumpur to set up an initial fund of Rs30 million. Appeal for international assistance would be considered at a later stage, PRCS operational coordinator Mohammad Abaidullah Khan told Dawn on Monday.

The PRCS has completed its rapid assessment early this month in six most vulnerable districts in Sindh and Balochistan. The three districts in Sindh were Tharparkar, Umerkot and Badin, while those in Balochistan included Noshki, Kharan and Pishin.

To start the operation, the PRCS has targeted Tharparkar in Sindh and Noshki in Balochistan and intends to expand the operation to other areas for completing the detailed need assessment during the disaster emergency relief operation. In these two districts, the PRCS has its presence in addition to security, operational feasibility and public acceptance, Abaidullah Khan said.

Official says Red Cross office in Kuala Lumpur has been urged to set up Rs30m fund

A report submitted to the IFRC says upland Balochistan and Sindh in south are the most heavily affected by severe drought. These affected areas have been prone to water shortages and rainfall and has touched record low, measured over the last many years with minimal or sometimes no rainfall.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department said in its alert that severe to extreme drought-like conditions have emerged over most of the southern parts of Pakistan due to lack of summer rain.

The abrupt decline in rainfall in most of the upland areas of the province has caused a complete drying up of the surface drinking water resources and has decreased water output from springs and tubewells. This has caused the water table to drop in most of the valleys and low-lying areas.

This prolong period of drought badly affected food production systems hence the health of community members, especially women and children. During the severe drought conditions, there is scarcity of nutritional food and potable water, which leads to the spread of disease.

Recent drought, caused by less than average and erratic rainfall and long dry spell, led to out-migration of rural population to barrage areas to seek food, water and gain employment. In the face of no feasible alternatives, communities resort to seeking food, water and gainful employment. In the face of no feasible alternatives, communities resort to drinking saline or unfit water and suffer from abdominal diseases and discoloration or teeth over time.

According to the Pakistan National Drought Monitoring Centre, severe drought is prevailing in most parts of Sindh.

The provincial government of Sindh has declared Tharparkar, Umerkot, Dadu, Thatta, Sanghar, Kambar Shadadkot, Jamshoro and Badin as worst drought-affected districts where the total population affected by drought has been estimated to be 184,244.

The detailed assessment was conducted early this month to assess the impact of drought on agriculture, including crop cultivation, production, water availability and livestock, livelihoods, food security, access to water and sanitation and hygiene practices of the households and communities.

After the rapid drought need assessment, the Balochistan government has declared Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Noshki, Chaghi, Kharan, Washuk, Panjgur, Kech, Jhal Magsi, Awaran, Zhob, Jaffarabad, Barkhan, Quetta, Killah Saifullah, Kohlu, Naseerabad and Kachhi as the worst drought-affected districts where affected people has been estimated to be 216,806.

The assessment aims to understand the current drought phenomenon in Balochistan and its impact on agriculture, livelihood and water resources and to identify the existing coping-mechanisms adopted by rural households in the drought-affected areas.

The response and rehabilitation directorate — the operation wing of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) — has been declared as “Drought Secretariat” for effective coordination of efforts.

The NDMA at the request of the PDMA has submitted a summary to the Prime Minister Office for approval and support for the drought-affected population in 26 severe drought-affected districts of Sindh and Balochistan.

The NDMA has also approached the United Nations agencies and humanitarian actors to augment government’s efforts and support the ongoing response to the affected population.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2019