Pakistan’s Impending Famine

Pakistan’s Thar desert, in the southeastern Tharparkar district, is home to about a million residents, and is a harsh landscape in which to eke out an existence in the best of times.

Media reports have revealed that dozens of people—many of them children—have died from malnutrition over the last three months in the bone-dry desert region. And things could soon get much worse.

Local residents say that while there is not significantly less water than there usually is during this dry winter season, the 30 percent drop in rainfall over the monsoons has significantly affected them. Residents live on the edge of survival, and the smallest pressure from the climate can push them into extreme poverty or malnutrition, says Zaffar Junejo, the chief of the Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP), which has been working in this area for the last 18 years.

Tharparkar is one of the country’s most food insecure districts, with the WFP declaring residents to be in a state of “severe food insecurity”. Health is another major concern, with 47 percent of Tharparkar’s children categorized as “malnourished”.

Since March 7, relief goods have been streaming into the area from all over the country, in the wake of a widely reported “drought”.

Nearly half of Pakistan’s 180 million people lack access to safe water. No other nation has a higher infant mortality rate, and only a few have more cases of tuberculosis.

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