Islamabad/Geneva, 1 March 2019 – Women and children affected by one of the worst droughts in Pakistan’s recent history are now also at risk from disease and malnutrition, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned today.
Communities in the worst-affected areas of the southern Sindh and Balochistan provinces have so little access to nutritional food and safe water that many are forced to drink saline or get water from contaminated sites. As a result, many people – particularly children, and women who are pregnant or lactating – are suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting and fever, which is leading to widespread malnutrition. Women and children are at the highest risk, as men are able to work in towns where there is a wider choice of foods and access to clean drinking water.
IFRC’s head of country office Dr Thomas Gurtner described the rates of malnutrition and disease as “alarmingly high” and said the organisation was ramping up its support to the Pakistan Red Crescent Society volunteers and staff on the ground.
“IFRC has released 315,000 Swiss francs of emergency funds to enable the Pakistan Red Crescent to meet the needs 15,000 of the most vulnerable people threatened by disease and drought,” he said.
“This will allow the Red Crescent to improve access to safe drinking water through solar boreholes, storage facilities, improved water treatment and other services, while the most vulnerable people receive cash transfers that give them full control of providing for their families.”
An estimated five million people are affected by the drought, which was caused by unseasonably high temperatures and below average monsoonal rainfall, both of which are influenced by El Niño. The water table has dropped in most valleys and low-lying areas, and food production in the affected areas has dropped by 34 per cent. The Pakistan Meteorological Department forecasts that the situation will continue to deteriorate over the coming four years, in part due to climate change.
In Islamabad: Thomas Gurtner, head of country office, +92 3088 888053; firstname.lastname@example.org
In Kuala Lumpur: Zulaikha Mudzar, +60 17303 2296, email@example.com
In Geneva: Matthew Cochrane, +41 792 518 039, firstname.lastname@example.org