Thar may face ‘humanitarian emergency’: UN report

ISLAMABAD: The situation in Tharparkar, Umerkot and Sanghar districts is vulnerable and may slip to a ‘humanitarian emergency’, a joint United Nations observation mission says.

The UN report made available on Monday observed that the situation might deteriorate if no or little rains were received in the coming monsoon season. The main vulnerabilities pertain to water scarcity, healthcare and remoteness.

In contrast, Sindh government officials informed the UN mission that the situation in all the three districts was not precarious as of now, and it was much better as compared to 2014-15.

The officials said the desert areas in Umerkot and Tharparkar practised mono-cropping, but no cultivation was reported by the communities in Sanghar during last year’s Kharif season.

The situation in Umerkot appears poorer compared to the other two districts because of low rainfall during 2016 resulting in less production of millet and guar in the desert areas.

However, since a large part of Umerkot was irrigated, people hailing from desert areas found alternative opportunities to make their living within the district, the officials claimed.

The officials at the same time admitted that during the past six months, no food assistance had been provided by the government in any of the three districts where malnutrition had been a major problem among women and children. Most of the women were anaemic and newborn underweight.

The Provincial Disaster Mana­gement Authority and the Singh government had requested the UN to send a quick joint observation mission to assess the impacts of the long dry spell on agriculture, food security, health and nutrition, and livelihood strategies of the population and their cropping capacity in the districts previously affected by drought.

The report revealed that the areas had received limited assistance during the past six months and apparently no action had been taken on the recommendations of the studies carried out on the situation.

The situation had not much changed in the area since the Sindh Drought Needs Assessment (SDNA) was conducted. Vulnerabilities still existed in these communities which were not new. The SDNA had thoroughly assessed all the vulnerabilities and had listed short- and long-term recommendations to deal with the situation.

The report recommended that the needs pointed out in the SDNA and also identified during the mission should be addressed simultaneously, by short- and long-term interventions, humanitarian assistance and development projects that respected and responded to the community needs.

The receipt of food assistance along with nutrition support would be very helpful for the targeted households. Just nutrition support might not be very helpful when overall food deprivation was prevalent, it said.

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