Since June 2022, Pakistan is under continuous severe monsoon weather. It has been recorded to have received rainfall 67% more than normal levels this month. Up till the last week of August, the rainfall in the country is equivalent to 2.9 times the national 30-year average.
These torrential monsoon rains have triggered the most severe flooding in Pakistan’s recent history, washing away villages and leaving around 3.4 million children in need of assistance and at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning, and malnutrition. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed, while many public health facilities, water systems, and schools have been destroyed or damaged. Young children are living out in the open with their families, with no drinking water, no food, and no livelihood, exposed to a wide range of new flood-related risks and hazards, including damaged buildings and drowning in floodwaters. This also has caused widespread flooding and landslides, with severe repercussions for human lives, property, and infrastructure. To date, 72 districts across Pakistan have been declared ‘calamity hit’ by the Government of Pakistan. These numbers remain dynamic given the ongoing rains, and the number of calamity-declared districts is expected to increase.
The Government of Pakistan estimates that around 33 million people across the country are affected by the rains, floods, and consequent impacts such as landslides. More than 421,000 refugees living in calamity-declared districts are also affected or at risk. As of August 27, southern and central Pakistan has been most affected, particularly Balochistan and Sindh provinces. Balochistan has received 5.1 times its 30-year average rainfall; while Sindh’s is 5.7 times its 30-year average. Hill torrents occurred in Balochistan, Sindh, and South Punjab, while most districts of Sindh were inundated, with water unlikely to recede soon.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the higher rainfall in Balochistan represents a change in the monsoon pattern, as the province is not usually affected by the monsoon. Around 6.4 million people are estimated to need assistance. According to the NDMA, between June 14 and August 27 at least 1,033 people were killed and 1,527 people injured, with numbers increasing as the rains continue. Over 287,000 houses have been destroyed and over 662,000 partially damaged.
Flash floods and rain-induced landslides are compounded by the inability of existing infrastructure to cope with the extraordinary amount of water. Many rivers, including the Indus River which traverses the length of Pakistan, are at high flood warning levels and/or have breached their banks, and major dam reservoirs are rapidly filling or already overflowing, posing further risk to people in the vicinity and downstream.
Livestock is a critical source of sustenance and livelihood for many families in rural areas. More than 719,000 livestock have died. The major loss of livestock was in Baluchistan which was around 69% followed by Punjab which was 28%. Around 2 million acres of crops and orchards have also been affected. An estimated figure of 304,475 acres areas is affected in Baluchistan, whereas in Punjab 178,186 acres, and around 1.54 million acres in Sindh. This situation is compounded by the severe damage to infrastructure. Around 3500 km of roads and 149 bridges have been destroyed; resultantly it is hampering people to move to safer places as well as aid cannot be reached them.
UNICEF is responding with the government and partners. They are helping flood victims with lifesaving medical supplies; food supplies and safe drinking water, etc. UNICEF is also establishing temporary learning centers and supporting the protection and psychosocial well-being of affected children.
The Government of Pakistan and the United Nations have jointly launched, the ‘2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP)’. It was simultaneously started in Islamabad and Geneva. It highlights the humanitarian needs of flood victims, the efforts and steps taken by the Government of Pakistan to handle these challenges in collaboration with the UN and other partners, and sets out a well-coordinated and inclusive plan of action to respond to the needs of the affected people.
The FRP is all-inclusive with a multi-sectoral approach covering the thematic clusters of food security and agriculture, health, nutrition, education, protection, shelter and non-food items, water, sanitation, and hygiene. The FRP focuses on the needs of 5.2 million people, with life-saving response activities amounting to US$160.3 million covering food security, assistance for agriculture and livestock, shelter and non-food items, nutrition programs, primary health services, protection, water and sanitation, women’s health, and education support, as well as shelter for displaced people.
Pakistan is a country with experience and capacity in responding to humanitarian emergencies and has made major strides in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, the scale and magnitude of the current floods are unprecedented, whereby, the country received rainfall equivalent to 2.9 times the national 30-year average – a grave manifestation of Climate Change induced disasters. It is important that the international community shows solidarity with Pakistan and complements its national efforts in combating the direct and inter-related impacts of the current floods.
Pakistan is among the ten countries most affected by extreme weather events despite its very low carbon footprint, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 and Climate Watch. While national efforts are underway to support people affected by the ongoing rains and floods, international solidarity is crucial to adequately address the impacts.
There are three main strategic objectives to achieve, besides others. One is to deliver urgent life-saving and livelihood assistance for people affected by floods, in line with national priorities and support of the government response. Secondly, to prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases and effectively monitor risks to the health of the affected population, including the nutrition status of vulnerable people such as pregnant and lactating women and children under five years of age. Thirdly, to restore conditions of safety and dignity for flood-affected people and ensure their access to urgently needed assistance and protection.
Moreover, the response would be gender-sensitive and aims to meet the acute needs of the most vulnerable people affected by the floods. Groups that will be prioritized for assistance include:
- Newly displaced people
- People living in poor shelter conditions
- People who have lost their income or livelihood, such as farmers and laborers
- Female-headed households
- Persons with disabilities (PWD)
- Refugees residing in flood-affected areas
The response by the Government of Pakistan is well underway. Nationwide, PKR 35 billion (ca. US$173 million) has been earmarked to aid flood-affected people under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).
This is expected to be increased to over PKR 100 billion (ca. US$460 million), due to ongoing and forecasted rains in Sindh province. BISP is expecting to target, in accordance with the National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER), approximately 4.6 million of the most vulnerable households in the notified affected areas across Pakistan with each receiving PKR 25,000 (US$115) in immediate cash relief. The government is also providing PKR 1 million (US$4,615) in ex-gratia compensation to the next of kin of people killed by the impact of the floods; PKR 250,000 (US$1,154) for injuries and partially damaged houses; and PKR 500,000 (US$2,308) for destroyed houses. A relief fund has also been established for people to donate to the flood relief efforts, in addition to PKR 5 billion (ca. US$23 million) released by the Government to the NDMA. Beyond financial support, by 25 August the NDMA and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of the affected.
To provide children with continuity of learning, safety, and a sense of normalcy, and to prevent children, especially girls, from dropping out of school, Education Sector partners, together with other stakeholders, will support the provincial Education Departments to ensure that children continue to have access to safe and protected learning environments for the next six months. To supply clean drinking water to people affected by the floods, the government has determined the need for water filtration units at the household level and community water filtration plants, while repellents and sprays are needed to mitigate the risk of insect-borne diseases that has heightened due to the prevalence of standing water resulting from the floods.
Sanitation and hygiene solutions are also needed, including temporary toilets, toiletries, hygiene kits, and washing materials. The Food Security and Agriculture Sector has a strong presence in all targeted geographic locations with field offices, and the capacity to scale up and implement needed activities.
The response plan will be implemented in close coordination with relevant federal and provincial government ministries/departments (NDMA, PDMAs), the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, and local government administration. International and national NGOs will also be engaged in implementing the response activities.
The health sector response will be implemented through NGOs with contractual services as well as through direct implementation by the sector lead agencies. The Health Sector response envisages enhancing the capacity of health facilities through the deployment of trained healthcare providers with provisions of essential medicine and required medical equipment.
Where appropriate, primary healthcare implementation will be conducted through government health systems or mobile teams. Community mobilization and engagement will be sought. Provinces had also supported people in need with in-kind support such as Food, including 143,685 food packs; Shelter items, including 167,822 tents, 84,580 tarpaulins, and 211,236 mosquito nets; and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) supplies, including 10,045 Hygiene Kits and 31,864 jerry cans.
Of the US$47.99 million total funding requirement for the Food Security and Agriculture Sector to implement the planned activities, US$30.08 million is needed for food/cash assistance, and US$17.91 million is needed to protect livestock and produce vital food. To sustain the people living in the flood-affected areas nationwide, the Government of Pakistan needs to support some 5.5 million families with food, as well as nutrition support for children and breastfeeding mothers. This support would be for an initial period of six months and would be delivered through the provision of standardized food packs to feed a family for two weeks. Nutrition supplements are also needed.
The health sector response will be implemented through NGOs with contractual services as well as through direct implementation by the sector lead agencies. The health sector response envisages enhancing the capacity of health facilities through the deployment of trained healthcare providers with provisions of essential medicine and required medical equipment. Where appropriate, primary healthcare implementation will be conducted through government health systems or mobile teams. Community mobilization and engagement will be sought.
The author, Mr. Nazir Ahmed Shaikh is a freelance writer, columnist, blogger, and motivational speaker. He writes articles on diversified topics. Mr. Shaikh could be contacted at nazir_shaikh86@hotmailcom