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PAKISTAN: Government neglect in drought-affected region leaves thousands malnourished in Tharparkar District

The current drought in Tharparkar has left many villagers suffering from malnutrition and other hunger-related illnesses. The villagers rely on the consumption of milk from livestock as their primary source of food but the drought has killed off a larger number of animals, and milk production has severely dwindled. Livestock comprises of almost 80 percent of the district's economy, and the shortage of animals has also significantly decreased the villagers' purchasing power. Thus, the victims can neither rely on animal husbandry and farming in the village as a source of food, nor can they afford to buy food in the markets. Potable water also does not exist in the area anymore as most of the ground wells have gone dry. This has increased the incidence of malnutrition and the young, elderly and pregnant being more susceptible.

HUNGER ALERT HUNGER ALERT HUNGER ALERT HUNGER ALERT HUNGER ALERT
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM
25 May 2006
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HA-06-2006: PAKISTAN: Government neglect in drought-affected region leaves thousands malnourished in Tharparkar District
COUNTRY: Hunger, malnutrition and starvation; government neglect; ineffective welfare schemes
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information concerning the plight of several thousand villagers suffering from hunger and malnutrition due to the severe drought that has affected the Tharparkar District over the past ten months. Drought has been a common occurrence in the area, and while several welfare assistance programmes exist in the country, the villagers in the district have not received any form of aide. Each day the hunger situation worsens as people continue to lose their source of livelihood due to the drought.

The current drought in Tharparkar has left many villagers suffering from malnutrition and other hunger-related illnesses. The villagers rely on the consumption of milk from livestock as their primary source of food but the drought has killed off a larger number of animals, and milk production has severely dwindled. Livestock comprises of almost 80 percent of the district's economy, and the shortage of animals has also significantly decreased the villagers' purchasing power. Thus, the victims can neither rely on animal husbandry and farming in the village as a source of food, nor can they afford to buy food in the markets. Potable water also does not exist in the area anymore as most of the ground wells have gone dry. This has increased the incidence of malnutrition and the young, elderly and pregnant being more susceptible.

The drought has also affected other areas of the victim's lives. Massive numbers of out-migration to unstable parts of the country has resulted due to the lack of food, water and income in Tharparkar. By the end of April 2006, it was estimated that 42 percent of the village's 1,200,000 residents had left their homes in the district. This has led to increased insecurity among women and children, a 10 percent increase in school dropouts who are now in search of employment, and a lower cost of labour.

On December 19, 2005, the Government of Sindh, through a notification, declared the entire district of Tharparkar as a calamity affected area, however no relief measure have been taken thus far in the affected area. This inaction comes in light of a meeting recently held by the Annual Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) in Islamabad that was expected to approve the allocation of funds for the second phase of a relief assistance programme geared towards drought-affected areas. The first phase, known as the Drought Emergency Relief Assistance (DERA) was recently completed and deemed satisfactory in providing short-term development schemes in drought-hit areas by both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. However, no relief from this assistance programme has gone towards the victims in Tharparkar District.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Drought has been of serious concern in the district in recent years. Since 1990, the people in Thar have faced 11 droughts. The District Administration has repeatedly recommended that assistance be provided by the Government of Sindh to the affect areas, but the government has only recognized a few of the droughts. In this drought season, the Government of Sindh has only provide subsidized wheat for two of the ten months that the drought has persisted, and all agricultural taxes and fines were still levied despite the area being considered in a state of calamity. Part of the problem stems from the procedure in which a district can be declared as drought-affected; it usually takes between three to eight months for the Government of Sindh to approve the notification by the district administration and even more time to provide assistance, causing even further malnutrition in the interim period.

Several civil society organizations have come together in order to address these concerns and draft a better system in which drought-affected areas can be declared and assistance can be provided. Drafts and proposals from these organizations, many which have also been shared with the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Sindh and several other government officials, include the following recommendations:

The Sindh Calamity Act 1958 must be amended and reformulated as a Drought and Disaster Policy.
The district government need be delegated the power to declare any area as a calamity-hit area in a timely manner.
A special fund in the annual budget of the Sindh and Federal government should be allocated, and the district government must be authorized to utilize the funds.
The Union Council leaders should be authorized to distribute relief goods in their respective union councils.
A separate department should also be set up to cope with disaster conditions, at the district and provincial level.
SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the relevant authorities below, urging them to investigate the hunger situation that has resulted from the drought in Tharparkar. Food and relief assistance must be immediately provided to the victims. Furthermore, the steps taken in drought-affected areas must be modified. Please urge the government officials below to examine the procedure taken in calamity-affected areas and request that the district government is given more authority and funds to allow for them to provide assistance in an appropriate and timely manner.

Suggested Letter:

Dear ____________


RE: PAKISTAN: Government neglect in drought-affected region leaves thousands malnourished in Tharparkar District

I am writing to you to voice my concerns over reports of severe malnutrition that exists in the Tharparkar District as a result of a severe drought that has affected the area for the past ten months. Drought has been a common occurrence in the area, and while several welfare assistance programmes exist in the country, the villagers in the district have not received any form of aide. Each day the hunger situation worsens as people continue to lose their source of livelihood due to the drought.

I was informed that the incidence of malnutrition and hunger-related diseases has increased in several months. The villagers rely on the consumption of milk from livestock as their primary source of food but the drought has killed off a larger number of animals, and milk production has severely dwindled. Livestock comprises of almost 80 percent of the district's economy, and the shortage of animals has also significantly decreased the villagers' purchasing power. Thus, the victims can neither rely on animal husbandry and farming in the village as a source of food, nor can they afford to buy food in the markets. Potable water also does not exist in the area anymore as most of the ground wells have gone dry.

It has also been reported that the drought has also affected other areas of the victim's lives, who live abject poverty. Massive numbers of out-migration to unstable parts of the country has resulted due to the lack of food, water and income in Tharparkar. By the end of April 2006, it was estimated that 42 percent of the village's 1,200,000 residents had left their homes in the district. This has led to increased insecurity among women and children, a 10 percent increase in school dropouts who are now in search of employment, and a lower cost of labour.

Although the district has been affected by drought for the past ten months, and on ten other occasions in the last 17 years, little assistance from the Government of Sindh has been provided. It was not until early this year that two months of subsidized grain was provided to the victims, however this is insufficient in providing any kind of relief to the starving villagers.

It was brought to my attention that several relief programmes do exists in the country for calamity-hit areas, however Tharparkar has not received any assistance. Thus, I strongly urge you to investigate this matter and provide immediate relief assistance to the victims in the affected district. I was also informed that there are several delays and problems exist in the current relief programmes for drought-affected areas. Therefore, I also strongly urge you to modify the system in which drought-affected areas can be declared and assistance can be provided. This should include a separate fund and agency dedicated to drought relief, as well as complete autonomy and authority of the district administration to provide assistance in an appropriate and timely manner.

I trust you will take immediate action in this matter.
 
Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Arbab Anwar Jabbar
District Nazim - Tharparkar
PAKISTAN
Telefax: +92 23 426 1308

2. Mr. Muhammad Nasir Khan
Federal Minister for Health
Block C, Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 51 921 3933
Fax: +92 51 920 3944

PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
Pakistan Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
Email: CE@pak.gov.pk

2. Mrs. Saira Karim
Joint Secretary for Law, Justice and Human Rights
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 51 920 2819
Fax: + 92 51 920 3119

3. Mr. Ishrat-ul- Ibad Khan
Governor
Government of Sindh
Governor House Karachi
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 21 920 1201
Email: governor@governorsindh.gov.pk

4. Ms. Raana Syed
UNICEF - Karachi
PO Box 2023
59-B Sindh Muslim Housing Co-operative Society
Karachi - 7440
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 21 454 9525
Fax: +92 21 454 9529
Email: Karachi@unicef.org

5. Mr. Kanwar Waseem
Secretary
PRCS Sindh Provincial Branch
Hilal-e-Ahmer, Hilal-e-Ahmer House
Main Clifton Road, Karachi
PAKISTAN
Tel: +91 21 583 3973
Fax: +92 21 583 0376
Email: prcindh@cyber.net.pk

6. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch
Fax: +91-11-5164 2147
Email: commissioners@vsnl.net

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme -- Hunger Alert

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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