Why did Umarkot become part of Pakistan

Pakistan: tackling drought, inequality and hunger

Combat drought, inequality and hunger

Country case study
October 2017
Photo: Sharjeel Arif / Black Box Sounds, 2017. Women carry water in clay pots from the community well. Umerkot District, Sindh Province, Pakistan. Hide

Pakistan is one of the world's most severely affected by natural disasters and climate change, and multidimensional poverty continues to affect over 39 percent of the population

Government of Pakistan, 2016
Saleem gives water to his sheep in Tharparkar village. Hide

Pakistan has come a long way since gaining independence in 1947: the population has grown from 33 million to 200 million, the literacy rate has risen from 11 to 58 percent and the country's GDP is growing steadily (Government of Pakistan 2017; World Bank 2016). But Pakistan is also one of the world's most severely affected by natural disasters and climate change, and more than 39 percent of the population is still affected by multidimensional poverty (Government of Pakistan 2016). In some districts of the country the effects of drought and poverty are barely noticeable, but in other regions people suffer from these causes of hunger.

In the 2017 World Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 106th out of 119 countries. With a value of 32.6, the hunger situation in this country can be classified as “serious” (on the verge of “very serious”) (von Grebmer et al. 2017). In 2011, the National Nutrition Survey provided a comprehensive overview of the nutritional situation in Pakistan. It showed that the numbers that gave the most cause for concern came in many cases from Sindh Province. 50 percent of children under five years of age were affected by stunting, 19 percent by wasting (Aga Khan University 2011). The food problems in Sindh have many causes, from the relatively low investment in the population, infrastructure and public facilities of this province to the effects of the flood disaster of 2010, which left particularly severe devastation in Sindh.

Between 2013 and 2015 there was a severe drought in Sindh, which particularly affected the Thar desert. This area includes a large part of the Umerkot district and the Tharparkar district. The latest Human Development Index for Pakistan placed Tharparkar in the lowest category. An in-depth analysis in 2015 showed that almost the entire population of Thar lived below the international poverty line of 1.9 US dollars per person per day. Thar suffers from the inhospitable geographical conditions of a desert area, but has nevertheless received comparatively fewer resources for development promotion than other parts of the country. Pakistan's richest districts received, on average, five times as much public funding as the poorest (Hassan 2016).

When the drought worsened at the turn of 2014/15, a number of donors reacted to the crisis: The German government supported the activities of Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and - perhaps the most important reaction - the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Management (ECHO) funded one joint humanitarian operation planned by Concern Worldwide (Concern) and WHH.

A draft project that eliminates vulnerabilities and inequalities

Malooko, Maan Singh, Surto, Meena and Shkuntala fetch water from a well in Maghe Jo Tar village in Tharparkar district. Hide

The Concern / WHH team exchanged ideas with the technical advisors from ECHO and the respective local partner organizations in Thar (NGOs Development Society, Research and Development Foundation and Thardeep Rural Development) and carried out an in-depth analysis of the various dimensions of hunger and inequality in the Region through. The team concluded that an integrated and multisectoral approach would be best suited to address malnutrition in Thar. This included diet-specific measures to offset immediate effects, as well as diet-sensitive activities to address underlying causes. Specifically, the availability of drinking water and access to a healthy diet should be improved and household incomes increased. When the project started in 2015, the GAM rate (global acute malnutrition) in the project area was 19.1 percent, well above the emergency limit of 15 percent.

In terms of inequality, the situation was more difficult. Given the limited duration and funding of the project, many dimensions of inequality in Thar could not be taken into account. One example is the unequal distribution of land ownership, which limits many residents of Thar, the so-called Tharis, to the status of landless farmers and thus leaves them little chance to develop. Nonetheless, there were three areas where the project was able to reduce inequality.

This also included aggravated socio-economic inequalities due to the drought. The poorest people in Thar found that with the persistent drought, their coping strategies became increasingly ineffective: they gave up the few livestock they owned and which were valuable to them, but the poor health of the animals made little profit. As more people looked for casual work, there was an oversupply that led to rapidly falling wages. When the second year of the drought came, it became almost impossible for the poorest Tharis to obtain loans, as crop failures had occurred in the heavily rain-dependent agriculture and the yields had shrunk by half compared to normal years.

The second dimension of inequality concerned the gender issue and the far-reaching effects of asymmetrical power relations and corresponding social norms on women and girls. The problems range from restricted mobility to early marriage and pregnancy and a lack of participation in decision-making processes and markets to poor control over material assets. When the men migrate in search of work, the women bear the burden of looking after the family that has stayed behind. And when the animals are too weak and too sick to draw water from the well, the women and children have to do this without their help, often from wells that are more than 90 meters deep.

The third dimension of inequality concerns the distribution of resources and aid between regions. While international interest has focused on the displaced and the host communities, cities or families in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Concern and the WHH have endeavored to draw attention to the worsening situation in Thar and to provide humanitarian aid from UN agencies and others Attracting donors to the region.

Counteracting inequality through our work

The women Lachmi, Kareema, Radha, Kanta and Devi Umerkot (from right to left) from the village of Cheel Bandh are on their way to the well to fetch water for home. Hide

Before the project started, our community received no support. Through the cash-for-training programs, mothers learn to care for their children appropriately and to pay attention to nutrition, health and hygiene. With the additional money, we can also ensure that we always have enough to eat. In this way, the average weight of the toddlers could be increased by 0.5 to 1 kg.Sonari, food security promoter in Aqlo Beel Village, Umerkot District

The project team implemented a number of measures to strengthen the resilience of the poorest families. Large-scale vaccination and deworming campaigns were organized with the local government authorities responsible for animal husbandry to ensure the health of over 125,000 goats, sheep and camels. The animals are the most important possession for many Tharis and provide them with meat, milk and also work (camels are used to plow fields and draw water from wells). In the meantime, the municipalities were provided with 1.25 million euros through cash-for-training and cash-for-work: the loss of income and food caused by poor harvests and lack of job opportunities was compensated for by the construction of storage basins and tanks for rainwater. Since fewer men had to migrate, they could instead look after the animals more intensively. This improved their health; and the ability to collect or store more rainwater nearby has reduced the workload on women.

Other measures were aimed directly at women: Community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) reduced the extent of malnutrition. Malnourished mothers and children under the age of five received nutritional therapies and nutritional supplements. In addition, women were educated about good care practices for unborn babies, infants and young children, and about diet and hygiene measures. Given the low crop yields and limited job opportunities in agriculture, conditional cash transfers through cash-for-training - in the form of awareness-raising events with key nutrition-related messages on nutrition, livestock and agriculture - were the only way to achieve this Rapidly improve access to a more balanced diet. Ninety-five percent of those educated were women who used the money to buy food and were empowered to receive the money personally.

The project started in May 2015 with funding of 3.7 million euros for one year. A total of 61,693 children under the age of five and 27,494 pregnant or breastfeeding women were screened for malnutrition. As a result, 6,070 severely acutely malnourished children, 11,398 moderately acutely malnourished children, and 2,901 malnourished pregnant and lactating women received treatment. A total of 15,288 households benefited from cash-for-training and cash-for-work programs and 8,117 from improved access to clean drinking water.

Maintain focus on hunger and inequality

Women in Ropo Bheel in Tharparkar District wait for cash to be distributed. Hide

The situation of families in the areas affected by the drought remains precarious: in 2016, the Sindh government began to expand its food-related aid measures with the support of the World Bank. However, the rainfall during the monsoon season in 2015 and 2016 was unevenly distributed; Thousands of households whose wealth is depleted remain at risk.

One of the most important results of the project was the analysis of the economy in private households (Household IMPRINT Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V. Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 1 53173 Bonn www.welthungerhilfe.de Concern Worldwide 52-55 Lower Camden Street Dublin 2, Ireland www.concern .net author Richard Blane (Welthungerhilfe Pakistan) Print DFS Druck Brecher GmbH, Cologne Design and production muehlhausmoers corporate communications gmbh, Cologne Photo credits Cover picture: Sharjeel Arif / Black Box Sounds, 2017. Women carry water in clay pots from the community well. District Umerkot, province Sindh, Pakistan. Page 3: Omer Bangash / Welthungerhilfe Pakistan, 2017: Sonari, housewife and food security promoter in Aqlo Beel Village, District Umerkot, Province Sindh.Bonn / Dublin, October 2017 This publication is a supplement to the European version of Welthunger- Index 2017 and is published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. Www.welthunger-index.org Notice The borders and country names shown in this publication as well as the country names used on the maps do not constitute an official statement or approval on the part of Deutsche Welthungerhilfe or Concern Worldwide. Economy Analysis, HEA). Concern coordinated this process in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and with the participation of other UN agencies and NGOs, including the WHH. Eight weeks of intensive field work and interviews with families affected by the drought in four areas of Sindh Province, two of them in Thar, formed the basis for this analysis, which was more comprehensive than any previous study of the drought.

The household analysis (HEA) showed how inequalities are perpetuated by the drought. Because the coping strategies available to poor families are less effective than those of better-off families. The analysis has become a reference document for the government and various UN organizations. It also served as the basis for planning a follow-up project by Concern / WHH, which is again financed by ECHO and is intended to support the nutrition-related aid measures of the government of Sindh.

Above all, however, the household analysis shows which resilience-promoting measures will be necessary in the future. Much remains to be done, but recent advances show that it is possible to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition in Sindh. This progress must now be sustainably supported and strengthened so that hunger continues to be fought and nobody is left behind.


Aga Khan University Pakistan. 2011.
National Nutrition Survey Report.
Karachi, Pakistan.

Government of Pakistan. 2016.
Multidimensional Poverty Index.

Government of Pakistan. 2017.
Pakistan Economic Survey 2016-2017.

Hassan, M. 2016.
Escaping the inequality trap
Development Advocate Pakistan 3 (1): 1.

UNDP Pakistan. 2016.
Inequality: Missing from the Public Agenda.
Development Advocate 3 (2). Islamabad, Pakistan.

von Grebmer, K., J. Bernstein, N. Hossain, T. Brown, N. Prasai, Y. Yohannes, F. Patterson, A. Sonntag, S.-M. Zimmermann, O. Towey, C. Foley. 2017.
2017 Global Hunger Index: The Inequalities of Hunger.
Bonn, Washington, DC, and Dublin: Welthungerhilfe, International Food Policy Research Institute, and Concern Worldwide.

World Bank. 2016.
Pakistan Development Update: From Stability to Prosperity.
Washington, D.C .: World Bank Group.


The borders and country names shown in this publication as well as the country names used on the maps do not represent an official statement or approval on the part of Deutsche Welthungerhilfe or Concern Worldwide.


Richard Blane (Welthungerhilfe Pakistan)