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Drought in Pakistan 2014

Next to flooding along the Indus, the southeast of Pakistan frequently suffers periods of extreme drought.

The Thar Desert is a much neglected region in the southeast of Pakistan, with a population of 1.5 million people. Its peripheral location at the Indian border along with the climatic conditions here tolerate all but small-scale agriculture and livestock farming. Livestock farming, therefore, is the primary source of income and the chief support of the people in this region. It provides income and food, a form of investment and financial security. Water shortage is a chronic problem. The groundwater is too salty and contaminated. With just one rainy season between July and September, the people are left with few alternative water sources. Healthcare services are focused on central urban areas, which often are out of reach for the rural population.

Since the start of this year, the situation of the rural people, especially the women and children, has dramatically deteriorated. Almost 100 infants and babies have died in recent month as a result of malnutrition and inadequate healthcare. The health and nutritional status of the people here has become alarming. Reasons for this are found in the outbreak of an animal disease that has cost the locals most of their cattle, but also inadequate healthcare (especially for mothers and children) in rural areas, and the low levels of rain in the previous year.

In March a state of emergency was declared in the region, but to this day many of the remote village communities are still waiting for help. The drastic loss of farm animals and the concurrent water shortage mean that families are at risk of losing, or have lost, their livelihoods. For many, migration to neighbouring regions is their last option. But the risk of such an arduous journey is immense for weak members of the family. The next rain, and so the chance of better living conditions and earnings, is not expected until July or August. This leaves the families to face another three or four months without clean drinking water and income.

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