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Pakistan’s vast and isolated desert regions of Cholistan in the southern Punjab and Tharparkar in Sindh are facing a hunger crisis.
Over 150 children have died in Tharparkar since the crisis began. And the worst drought in 15 years has left 95 percent of wells and ponds dried up in Cholistan. The wells are the main shared source of water for animals and pastoralist peoples.
In Salehpat in Sukkur, hundreds of goats, cows, sheep and camels have died. In Cholistan, three-quarters of the population have moved due to the drought, mainly to urban areas.
The needs include nutritional support for children, clean water, medical help to new mothers and vaccination and food for livestock.
Caritas Internationalis has launched an emergency appeal to help 3000 families. Caritas Pakistan has already provided food to 1100 extremely vulnerable families, including flour, cooking oil, rice, tea, water and biscuits.
One person Caritas Pakistan is helping is Mol Chand, a 27 year old blind man in Chitra village in Nagarparkar, Tharparkar. He has lost seven sheep to disease. The village pond has dried up. His parents are struggling to make their farm work.
“I ‘m happy to receive that aid package. It will bring smile to the face of my parents. God bless Caritas Pakistan for this,” he said.
Keeping livestock healthy is essential for overcoming the crisis. Livestock is closely tied up with human life in the desert areas. New mothers depend on the milk from the animals so they in turn can produce milk to feed their babies. The loss of an animal can led to hunger in the mothers and malnutrition in the children.
In collaboration with the government, Caritas will set up livestock vaccination camps to stamp out disease in birds and livestock. Caritas has vaccinated over 6500 livestock in ten villages so far.
Caritas had already been working in the area, in Nagarparkar, helping communities prepare for drought by providing water storage facilities and supporting livelihoods.
The work will continue with health interventions for severely malnourished children, further animal vaccinations and Caritas will also set up medical camps to help people access healthcare. Sickness rather than hunger is the main killer.