Published On: Tue, Sep 23rd, 2014

Climate Change brings more sufferings for food insecure Balochistan

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Safiullah Shahwani

QUETTA, BALOCHISTAN:
Floods are not new for Balochistan, but frequent floods since last few years caused disturbance for this poor and food insecure province.

On one hand, Baluchistan suffers with floods, mostly the province is suffering with lack of water, due to which a severe food shortage, worsening the situation in this already food insecure province.

Balochistan is one of the most food insecure areas in Pakistan. Beaten by various political crisis and man-made disasters, which include military operations, sectarian violence, issues of missing persons, lack of federal government’s care and plunder of resources in broad day light, Balochistan’s miseries are more compounded by the natural disasters and the consecutive floods over the years which even snatched the hope of livelihood from the people of this hapless but mineral rich province.

The natural disasters have caused more damage to mankind in the 21st century than any others, triggering unimaginable crisis of food security worldwide. Monsoon Contingency Planning Report 2012 generated by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) quotes as many as 400 disasters globally on average from 2000-2007 in the wake of climate change that affected 230 million people and caused an average 80 billion dollars economic loss across the world. These floods mostly cause havoc disproportionately in low and medium human development countries, hiking uncontrollable wave of food crisis on account of sweeping all the agricultural land, live-stock and other means of sustenance.

The frequent flash floods in the province are, undoubtedly, result of climate change. District Naseerabad and Jafferabad of Balochistan abound with the crops of rice, and agriculture is the major source of livelihood for the people of not only these districts but of most parts of Balochistan. The catastrophic floods, unfortunately, washed away everything that belonged to the people of these areas be it live-stock, crops, property or any other valuables and rendered thousands of people homeless. Despite major relief operations and food supply by Provincial Disaster Management Authority, countless people in these areas are still living their lives like environmental refugees. The NDMA’s mentioned report well confesses that 20 million people around Pakistan were affected by the floods in 2010 alone which snatched their homes, property and sources of livelihood. Having no economic resources at hand, the people of these areas can definitely not meet the caloric needs of their own-selves and that of their children. As a matter of fact, the series of floods did not end with the unfortunate year of 2010 but it repeatedly haunted the people of these areas during the subsequent years, multiplying the food crisis.

The damages caused by floods in 2012-13 are reported by Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), as displayed on its website, reveal horrifying figures. District Naseerabad stands on the highest where out of 156 deaths in entire Balochistan, 104 people belonged to this district. Out of total 787,780 persons affected in the entire province 298,149 belonged to Naseerabad and 335, 597 to Jafferabad. Similarly, out of 183,513 houses damaged fully or partially, 54,334 belonged to Naseerabad, 6500 to Jhal Magsi, 99,666 to Jafferabad and 9582 to Dera Bugti. In the same way, a total of 452, 588 acres of crops were damaged in the entire Balochistan where most affected districts were Naseerabad, Kaachi, Jafferabad, Killa Saifullah, Barkan and Zhob. With such huge losses, the life is much bitter for the people of these areas. Ghulam Rabbani, a local resident of Landhi Sharie, an area of Naseerabad Division, narrated the miserable tales of aftermath of flood and subsequent food crisis in the area, saying that people lost their everything which would sustain their lives, including live-stock, agriculture, and standing crops of rice. “The administration only distributed food packets among the people, that too among the very few, but no long terms measures were taken to compensate the economic loss of the people and bolster up their economy so that they could meet the shortage of food,” Rabbani added.

In fact, the government and other non-governmental organizations were undoubtedly seen for some time in engaging in relief activities but these all relief activities are short term policies. In long term, no considerable measures can be noted. Given the unpredictable situation in the face of changed climate, floods can wreak havoc in these areas once again ahead of monsoon spill. Nonetheless, the rehabilitation of the homeless, re-compensation of agricultural losses, arrangements of health, education and other basic needs for the people of these areas should include top-priority of the newly installed government in the province. If the fore-going things are not prioritized, the area can face a bulk of heath issues due to insecurity of food as the people cannot, at minimum, even fulfill their caloric needs.

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Needless to say that the nations is already suffering from insufficiency of nutritious food, balanced diet ingredients and many even cannot fulfill the required calories for proper functioning of their bodies due to rampant poverty around, a report of Sustainable Development Policy Institute titled Food Insecurity in Pakistan further reinforces the fears of mal-nutrition issues in these area which shockingly states that 48.6 per cent of the people in Pakistan are mal-nourished. As a matter of fact, the issues of food security and mal-nourishment are much more beyond the statistical figures on ground in Balochistan. United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in its report Status of Millennium Development Goals in Balochistan 2011 quoted District Dera Bugti the poorest districts in Pakistan where caloric poverty stands at 73.0 percent. Similarly, the mentioned organization’s report quotes 20 districts as highly suffering from mal-nourishment in entire Pakistan of which 10 belong to Balochistan which include Naseerabad, Dera Bugti, Musakhel, Sherani, Panjgoor and others.

Therefore, having lost everything and still having to grapple with dangerous situation ahead, the people of Naseerabad, Jafferabad and adjacent districts in Balochistan are highly prone to crises of food security which is likely to ignite break of epidemic diseases including water-born and air-born, and low expectancy of life, high women and infant mortality rates and chronic poverty in the offing.

It may be mentioned here that the waterborne diseases in these districts are already at peak and Naseerabad division is declared as the red-zone for hepatitis B by the Health Department of Balochistan. The spread of this fatal disease can claim further lives aimed no facilities of clean drinking water, secure and nutritious food and adequate health facilities. The air-borne diseases have reportedly affected the eyes of the people of this area and many are suffering due to unavailability of ophthalmological facilities.

The news of rising level of waters is already in headlines due to melt down of glaciers as a result of constant rise in the temperature. Already grappling with deep food insecurity issues, population in Balochistan can further plunge into malnutrition maladies if a proper and practicable plan is not chalked out to tame down the causes of food insecurity and to address the issues of food insecurity in Balochistan. The already ten district suffering mal-nourishment should serve as a wake-up call for the authorities concerned before it is too late.

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