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It’s been one year since Pakistan was struck by devastating floods impacting more than 33 million people across the country and destroying countless urban infrastructure and roads.
The impact of floods on agriculture is unprecedented, with crops being destroyed, livestock swept away, and homes reduced to rubble. It plunged Pakistan, known as the “regional grain basket“, and its most vulnerable rural population further into poverty and food insecurity.
Today, the country is facing a severe nutrition crisis, with nearly 10.5 million people experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity. The situation is likely to deteriorate in the coming months, with around 11.8 million people likely to experience high levels of acute food insecurity. According to UNICEF, the 2022 floods impacted 84 districts in Pakistan, affecting over 3.5 million children. One year on, the recovery process continues, though it remains a challenging journey.
Between June and August 202, monsoon rains brought unprecedented rainfall, and torrential rains began to drench vast swathes of Pakistan. The floods have taken the lives of more than 1,700 people, one-third of which were children. Rivers swelled to dangerous levels, inundating villages, towns, and farmlands. The provinces of Balochistan and Sindh were particularly hard hit, but no part of the country was spared. Entire communities were forced to flee as the rising waters swallowed their homes.
According to the World Bank, housing, agriculture, livestock, and transport sectors suffered the most significant destruction, with total damage estimated at 3.2 trillion rupees (US$14.9 billion). The provinces of Sindh and Balochistan account for approximately 50% and 15% of total recovery and reconstruction needs, respectively.
Action Against Hunger has been working in Pakistan since 2004, implementing nutrition and health programs in rural and remote areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Therefore, our teams were already on the ground and have swiftly initiated an emergency response to provide critical assistance to the affected communities.
One of our priorities was to train communities to cope with natural disasters and provide first aid. In Thatta district, we covered various villages to enrol active members of the community in disaster relief training. Gul Nissa is a young woman living in Hajid Wahid Dino Khero who successfully accomplished the training and now shares her experience with her neighbours. “The training taught me how to reach safe places and shelters when natural disasters such as floods strike. I provide the same training to a group of women in our village.”, shared Gul Nissa. She recalls her first practical case when the floods took over her village: “There was a woman in our village, a cancer patient. Access and routes were already blocked and doctors did not see any hope of saving her life. So, I took care of her, cleaning up and providing bandages to her wounds using the kit given by the ACF. This was done on a daily basis”.
Medical kits and first aid training are extremely important, as the majority of the population in rural Sindh lives at a considerable distance from hospitals or medical facilities. In the event of climate disasters, villages may be cut off from main roads and vital assistance. Basri, a 40-year-old resident of the village, has also appreciated the awareness sessions: “We received information regarding the possible dangers the floods can inflict and suggested ways to take care of ourselves. We have been asked to listen to the radio to remain informed of the climate patterns and related news.”
As floodwaters forced people to abandon their homes and seek refuge on higher ground, our teams took immediate action, distributing hygiene kits and essential items to help those in dire need. Affected households could also benefit from unconditional monetary assistance, receiving cash vouchers to cover their immediate needs. Yasmeen, from the Thatta district, decided to buy two goats and invest the remaining money in her own small shop: “ACF provided me with 25,000 rupees [90 dollars], and I purchased one goat for 8,000 rupees [30 dollars] and another for 6,000 rupees [22 dollars]. And then, I invested a small amount in my shop. Now it depends on whether to look after the goats for ten, eleven or twelve months and decide when to sell them”. In such crises, the emergency response is crucial and allows to cover the immediate needs of those in dire need. However, we are dedicated to fostering long-term change and financial autonomy for the communities so they can become more resilient and less vulnerable to external shocks.
Like Yasmeen, our teams assisted 21,237 individuals who benefited from unconditional cash assistance in Sindh and Balochistan. As part of its emergency response in both provinces, Action Against Hunger distributed 7876 hygiene kits and rehabilitated 500 water supply systems, such as handwashing stations, water storages and infrastructure. Considering the terrible impact of the floods on agriculture, our teams have assisted 2,160 farmer households with crop seeds, agricultural tools and livestock kits.
In many areas of Sindh and lower Balochistan, standing water remained for months, killing seasonal crops and creating a risk for disease spread. In upper Balochistan, flash floods have damaged housing, agriculture and infrastructure. For instance, Sindh provides a significant proportion of summer crops, including rice, cotton, and sugarcane, while Balochistan produces 90% of the country’s grapes, cherries, almonds, apples, apricots and pomegranates. Despite their significant agricultural output, Sindh and Balochistan are paradoxically grappling with the highest levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in the country.
High levels of poverty in these provinces prevent many families from accessing the food they require. Income disparities and a lack of economic opportunities further compound the problem. Both provinces are highly susceptible to climate change, leading to erratic weather patterns, including droughts and floods, that can significantly impact crop yields. In August, weeks of heavy monsoon rain flooded the Sutlej River, displacing 162,257 people and submerging 153,231 acres of land with standing crops.
In 2023, rural communities experienced a 50% increase in food prices compared to the previous year, and the inflation rate hit a record of 28.3%. Inflation has a subtle but insidious impact on food security. As the cost of living rises, households often find it increasingly difficult to afford the basic necessities, including food. This can lead to food insecurity, malnutrition, and a decline in overall health. Families and communities struggling to make ends meet find themselves grappling with the rising cost of essential food items. This leads to compromised diets, reduced food intake, and a heightened vulnerability to hunger.
Today, Action Against Hunger keeps running nutrition hubs to serve impoverished communities in Karachi suburbs, where families can bring their children for regular medical check-ups. Sehrish has been working as a nurse in this centre for a couple of months and has seen a lot of malnourished children. “When I started working, I received a child around 8 or 9 months old, according to the mother. When I looked at the child, I would have given her three months at most. She was extremely weak”. According to Shekhrish, families in the area live in huts and are unable to provide their children with adequate diets.
Many affected areas are still grappling with the aftermath of the floods. Rebuilding infrastructure, restoring livelihoods, and providing psychosocial support to the traumatised population are ongoing priorities. Efforts to rehabilitate farmlands and promote crop diversification are helping families regain their sources of income.
As Pakistan continues to rebuild, support from the international community remains crucial. The lessons learned from this disaster are a testament to the importance of investing in resilience and preparedness to ensure that the country can withstand future challenges that may come its way.
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