A LARGE number of people in Chitral rely on agriculture, livestock rearing and orchards as sources of livelihood. The parts of upper Chitral hit by the recent rains and subsequent floods are included in those areas. Thus, agricultural and non-agricultural sources of livelihood have been badly affected.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and the United Nations recently carried out a multi-sector rapid needs assessment (MS-RNA) in 10 worst affected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) districts, including Upper Chitral. The purpose of the study was to quickly assess the damages and identify the immediate needs of the affected households so that relief and rehabilitation efforts may be directed and executed accordingly.

The areas identified by the district administration of Upper Chitral included villages in the union councils of Mastuj tehsil and Torkhow/Mulkhow tehsil. The affected villages were Reshun, Booni, Awi, Sor Laspur, Chuinj, Khuz, Brep, Meragram 2, Bang Bala, Pawar, Sholkoch, Shuist and Boroghil. The union councils of Lot Oveer, Khot, Rech and Terich also fall in the jurisdiction of Torkhow/Mulkhow tehsil.

I represented a non-profit organisation and was part of the assessment team that also had other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in KP. The findings of the extensive study will come out in detail in due course. However, as the affectees face several challenges that pose existential threats and, thus, require immediate remedial actions, I present my personal observations to inform and facilitate other philanthropic and government organisations which may want to provide relief to the affected households.

The arrangement of shelter/restoration of houses for the displaced families, provision of food for all the affectees, fodder for their livestock, agricultural inputs, and immediate restoration of the irrigation channels are few of the most urgent needs.

Most of the affected localities, such as Boroghil, Pawar, Brep, etc., lie on high altitude, and winter in those areas is just round the corner. The displaced families are still camping under the open skies, and one cannot imagine the intensity of cold once the winter season really sets in. In addition, almost all households in the affected areas lost their income sources, such as crops, vegetables, and fruits because of torrential rains and glacial lake outburst floods. The fodder for the livestock is just about no good due to continued exposure to dampness.

This is because the disaster hit the high-lying areas hard before crops (grain, maize), vegetables (onion, tomatoes, etc) fruits (apple, pear, grapes) and fodder could be collected and preserved for future use. Besides, the irrigation channels have also been washed away.

Given the situation, among the issues discussed, the immediate support that could somehow instantly alleviate the sufferings of the vulnerable families comprises provision of shelter and food to the displaced families.

As the displaced families in Upper Chitral may hardly be in the range of 200 households, constructing shelter for them should not be a challenge.

Since the inhabitants of the disaster-hit areas face severe food insecurity due to crop damages and an acute grain shortage, the government must ensure the provision of subsidised flour.

The winters are approaching fast on the mountains. The displaced people are desperate for shelter and food. Soon, there will be snowfall and life will come to a standstill in these areas. It is a race against time for the people in Upper Chitral.

The government must act quickly to prevent another humanitarian crisis.

Shadman Zain
Chitral

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022

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