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Sunday, 5 August, 2001, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Pakistanis hit by drought
Baluchistan drought
The Balochis are barely managing to cope
By Susannah Price in Islamabad

Aid agencies in Pakistan say hundreds of thousands of farmers and peasants need urgent assistance due to the continuing drought.

Pakistan is now in its third year of drought - the worst ever seen here. A large percentage of the population live in the affected areas.

While heavy rains in the north of the country killed more than 160 people last week, the arid province of Baluchistan and other provinces are suffering from little or no rain.


We are beginning to wonder how are they going to manage to cope between now and next year

Jeff Taft-Dick, WFP Pakistan
Livestock has died, fruit orchards have withered away and crops have failed.

The next rains are due at the end of the year and if they come the harvest will only follow some months later. The farmers and small land-holders have nothing left to see them through the difficult times ahead.

'Barely coping'

Wages for labourers have plummeted, as have the price of animals in the market.

Dead livestock
Crops and livestock have died
"People are just barely managing to cope this year after two or three consecutive years of drought and so I think that we are beginning to wonder how are they going to manage to cope between now and next year," said Jeff Taft-Dick, the head of the World Food Programme in Pakistan.

"They've used up their available reserves, their numbers of livestock have decreased, so I think it should be a great concern to all of us."

International agencies have been providing food, grants, seed and water-pumps. The World Food Programme plans to assist 350,000 people pinpointed in a recent survey of the most needy.

Losses

The torrential rain which caused devastation in northern Pakistan last week did little to help the drought-affected areas.

Mr Taft-Dick said the government worked hard to mitigate the effects of the drought, but that it was hard to focus attention on the continuing problem.

Makeshift camp in the Thar desert
Rains are not due till the end of the year
"I think 'out of sight, out of mind' is a problem here now and especially at the federal level in Islamabad.

"In Pindi where now the crisis is flooding and too much water, it's hard to conceptualise a situation where you have villages that are without water and people are coming to the end of the line in terms of being able to cope," he said.

The drought has cost Pakistan a huge amount in lost revenues.

Aid agencies say the government needs to start planning its water strategy to face any future emergencies by building more reservoirs and stopping wastage.

But this will be too late for those who are facing destitution because of the current drought.

See also:

24 May 00 | South Asia
Pakistan drought takes its toll
08 May 00 | South Asia
Balochistan drought at 'crisis point'
02 Dec 99 | South Asia
Pakistan's parched province
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