Pakistan says drought forcing millions to move : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WIRE:05/10/2000 20:10:00 ET Pakistan says drought forcing millions to move

ISLAMABAD, May 10 (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Wednesday the worst drought in the country's history was forcing millions of people to leave their homes. A government statement said the prolonged drought had put more than three million people at risk in the southwestern province of Baluchistan and the southern province of Sindh, and

had now also struck parts of the North West Frontier province.

"Millions of people of these provinces are being forced to the ever worsening drought," it said.

The statement, issued on the eve of a planned trip by military ruler General Pervez Musharraf to some of the drought areas, said about 1.2 million people had been affected in Sindh and 2.1 million in Baluchistan.

"The overwhelming majority of those affected is already living below the poverty line," it said.

Weather experts blame the drought, which has also severely hit parts of neighbouring India and Afghanistan, on a disturbance of the climatic cycle caused by the so-called La-Nina weather phenomenon.

"The La-Nina phenomenon will remain active till July 2000 and the whole of Pakistan is in its range," the government statement said.

The situation in Sindh province, which borders India's drought-hit states of Rajashtan and Gujerat, is expected to improve when monsoon rains start some time in July.

But the official statement said that the forecast for Baluchistan, which borders the stricken southern provinces of Afghanistan, was that there would be no rains there before December.

General Musharraf appeared on state television on Monday to appeal to all Pakistanis at home and abroad to make generous donations to help the drought victims.

On Tuesday, the Pakistani govenrment set up a drought relief fund, asking all commercial banks to collect donations, and its officials briefed the United Nations and other donor agencies about the situation

-- Martin Thompson (, May 11, 2000


Southwestern Pakistan Struggles Through Dire Drought By Massoud Ansari BASIMA, Pakistan  In desperation, Khushi Mohammed Brohi tried to sell her 15-year-old daughter to buy food and water for a family dying because of relentless drought.

"What am I to do? If I can sell her I will be able to save the lives of 20 other people in my family," Brohi said. "They are dying. We have no food, no water."

Fifteen-year-old Zahura, her head bowed and her eyes gazing at the ground, caused a disturbance in the town square as people, mostly curiosity seekers, gathered around.

Her parents had brought her from their village of Zaro to Basima in southern Pakistan to sell as a house servant or a bride.

But before they could, town elders intervened. They asked people for donations, collecting $200 for Zahura and her family.

Brohi's deep desperation is felt throughout Baluchistan, the Pakistani province hit by what authorities say is the worst drought in 30 years.

For the past three years there has been little or no rainfall. Wells have run dry, streams and rivers are parched.

The Baluchistan government and Pakistan's army-led government have sent millions of dollars in aid to the drought-ravaged area. But it's not enough. The government has appealed to the United Nations for help.

Zia Mazhar/AP People flee from their drought-ridden villages in southwestern Pakistan

Residents in Baluchistan say dozens of people have died. Most of the victims are the very young and the very old, they say. An official death toll is difficult to get because of the remoteness of the area and the Muslim custom of burying the dead within 24 hours. At least 200 people have died in southern Sindh province.

According to one government estimate, nearly 10 million head of livestock have died in the drought this year. The arid countryside is littered with the carcasses of dead animals. Officials say most of the livestock that has survived is diseased.

Throughout Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, tens of thousands of people are on the move in search of water  inundating towns and cities where there is still some water, authorities say.

Mohammed Ismail, who was living in a makeshift camp in Shingar, north of Baluchistan's capital Quetta, said his village is virtually deserted.

Some in the camps worry about those they left behind.

"We don't have any communication with them so we don't know whether those who stayed behind in the mountains are even alive," said Bahram Khan.

And there doesn't appear to be much relief in sight.

"Water pools have dried up and the underground water table is massively depleted," said Baluchistan's governor, Amir-ul Mulk Mengal.

In the camps both near Shinger and Basima, people complain that the government is doing little to help them. They have blocked roads in recent weeks to demand more help.

"The government says it is providing water, flour, milk and fodder for the remaining cattle, but we have not been provided any relief so far," said Mohammed Khan at the Shinger camp.

Mengal says donations and aid are being made available, but "what aid and donations we are getting, we have to channel through the state machinery and that always takes time."

The devastation has not been limited to Pakistan.

In neighboring Afghanistan, entire herds belonging to nomads have been wiped out, virtually bankrupting them. The Taliban rulers have been ferrying people and water by helicopter.

In India, a massive government effort using ships and trains brought drinking water and food to drought-hit areas in 11 states. Forecasters in India are expecting the monsoon rains to arrive on time in June to bring relief.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 22, 2000.

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