Experts and residents residing in the southeastern Pakistan desert told Al Jazeera a “drought-induced famine” is affecting the lives of impoverished individuals in the region.
Ever since the famine story broke out, the Pakistani government has focused its attention in the region. According to Al Jazeera, the National Disaster Management Authority claims, “Tharparkar has seen the delivery of 3,582.3 tonnes of wheat (worth approximately $2.5m), 201 tonnes of rice, and 1,483.7 tonnes of emergency food packs and other food aid”.
But despite the government’s involvement in helping the famine-stricken region, the Pakistan Meteorological Department believes that there is no drought in Tharparkar in the first place. The department instead classifies it as a “socioeconomic disaster” despite the region being drier than usual this year.
On the other hand, the NGOs in Pakistan believe that the famine that killed over 100 children in Pakistan could have been avoided had the government decided to act sooner. According to the Guardian, Pakistani activists blame the government for failing to provide the region with healthcare and better infrastructure.
A local newspaper also told a similar story about the famine in southeastern Pakistan.
“The provincial government usually declares a state of drought in Thar by September or October when there is low rainfall during and after the monsoon season,” said the Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper.
Due to the low amount of rainfall last year in September, the government apparently pushed forward the declaration “and the provision of relief was thus delayed.”
Sources also told the newspaper that the local administration and health officials informed the chief minister that the conditions in the region were “normal during drought”.
According to local organizations that work with some of the poorest people in Pakistan, members of Dalit population are the ones mainly affected by the drought.
“Known in Pakistan as the scheduled class, Dalits suffer heavy discrimination under the caste system common across south Asia.”
The founder of Baanhn Beli, an NGO operating in Tharparkar since 1985, believes that representatives who were elected to represent the region should be held responsible for failing to properly report to the chief minister. He also believes that if the state invested in Tharparkar, most of the deaths caused by the famine would have not occurred.
It is clear that the officials are refusing to take full responsibility for the crisis in southeastern Pakistan. The international community, along with local humanitarian groups, is criticizing the state for failing to stop a preventable famine. They believe that the government should keep its promise and compensate the families of the victims for improperly handling the situation.
– Juan Campos