Pakistan warned of another drought


By Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD, Jan 29: Pakistan is heading towards another severe drought spell due to less rainfall in the current winter season, Mr Maryom Thomas, an official of the Geneva-based Emergency for South Asia feared.

Speaking at a press conference here at Red Crescent Society office on Monday, he said the rains received so far were insufficient to meet the country's requirement. "Winter rain will be responsible for the future situation of drought and if they do not occur the situation is expected to worsen with further loss of life, property and environment," he said.

Giving detail about last year's drought in Pakistan, he said the drought in 2000 severely affected the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh.

He said in the rain-fed areas, below normal rainfall since 1998 and an usually dry spell since Nov 1999, caused loss of livestock and crops and deterioration in the health and sanitary conditions.

Mr Thomas said that Balochistan was the worst affected province. To a question, he said out of 6.9 million people in Balochistan, an estimated 1.9 million in almost all districts of the province were affected.

In addition to the local population, these areas are inhabited by about 132,000 Afghan refugees, 65 per cent of whom were also affected. Crops have been damaged, with the drought killing 2 million animals and damaging the rain-fed wheat crop, the RCS official said.

Sindh was relatively less affected with 1.5 million victims out of the 30 million population, he added.

The Drought Relief Programme of the Government of Pakistan was launched with over Rs2 billion for undertaking various relief measures.

The relief included provision of free and subsidized distribution of food and medicines, cash compensation for livestock losses, animal feed and provision of health and veterinary services.

The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) had played its role in supplementing the government efforts in drought relief operation.

With fund from the European Community Humanitarian Organization (ECHO) and local philanthropists, the PRCS has made efforts to alleviate the suffering of drought victims by providing food, medicines, tents, blankets, firewood etc.

Funds allocated to the PRCS include donations from the International Federation of Red Cross, the Chinese Red Cross and Pharmacia and Upjohn summed Rs28,496,061 for food and Rs481,209 for medicines.