JANIB Gul Mohammad can feel a veil of sadness when he enters his home. And when his wife Kasbano serves him a dish of meat, if not a rarity, he knows why. Another animal perished. For his wife, it is a day of mourning; another huge economic loss for him.
As if the floods hadn’t done enough damage – destroying their home and the rice crop – they are also undermining the lives of their livestock. A few days ago, it was the fourth time in a month that he ate meat.
He and his wife rescued their six animals when they fled floodwaters that submerged their home and took shelter on a canal embankment for two weeks before returning.
However, shortly after being moved, a pregnant cow, a calf and two goats died, Gul Mohammad said by telephone from his village of Fateh Ali Buledi in Kamber Shahdadkot district of Sindh. The cow and goat that are still alive will soon succumb, he said, estimating a total loss of Rs250,000.
The FAO has warned that around 6 million people could face acute food insecurity in 28 vulnerable districts in Balochistan, Sindh and KP.
“Our animals are dying of starvation and disease,” he said. Insufficient forage and the stress of moving weaken them. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 85% of farmers have seen signs of animal disease outbreaks in their communities.
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Dr Nazeer Hussain Kalhoro, director general of the Sindh Institute of Animal Health in the provincial government’s livestock department, said the situation was alarming. In Balochistan, around 500,000 animals perished; followed by 436,435 in Sindh; 205,106 in Punjab and 21,328 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. An estimated 1,164,270 animals have perished, while many more are on the verge of death.
Some animals drowned while others died of starvation as the pastures were covered with water. Drinking contaminated water and feeding wet fodder led to parasitic diseases that weakened them.
The veterinary infrastructure being compromised, the animals could not be vaccinated.
Livestock, the largest agriculture sub-sector, contributed 60.1% to agriculture value added and 11.5% to GDP in FY 2020-21, according to the Pakistan Economic Survey. More than eight million rural families practice animal husbandry and derive more than 35 to 40% of their income from this source.
According to the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, there are 42 million buffaloes and nearly 51 million cattle in Pakistan.
Sindh has an estimated cattle population of between 40 and 50 million, Dr Kalhoro said; it is also the most affected province in terms of losses, which he estimates at 27,864,065,000 rupees. “Baluchistan may have lost more animals, but it had smaller ruminants for its own use, not livestock or dairy animals like those in Sindh.”
With no income, farmers sell their livestock to middlemen in Punjab at a huge loss. Last month alone, Dr Kalhoro said, around 4.5 million animals were sold. According to several studies, in the face of a crisis, smallholder farmers are often forced to choose between selling their assets to buy food for the family or reducing their food consumption to protect their assets. In either case, they face loss – economic or nutritional – pushing families into poverty.
According to the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, the poverty rate in Pakistan fell from 57% to 24.3% in 2015, but recently fell to 35.7%.
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Prior to the floods, the World Food Program conducted an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis of 28 vulnerable districts in Balochistan, KP and Sindh and estimated that about 5.96 million people were in IPC phase 3 (crisis) and 4 (emergency). ) between July and November 2022, this figure would increase to 7.2 million by March 2023. After the floods, the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) project that the number of people in need of emergency food assistance (IPC3/4) will increase to 11 million.
There was a severe shortage of fodder even before the floods. Much of the by-products needed to make fodder were exported, and small farmers were forced to import feed for their animals. Now the situation has escalated and it has already led to soaring prices for milk, meat, chicken and eggs, said Shakir Umer, president of the Dairy and Cattle Farmers Association.
The loss of buffaloes and cows means a severe shortage of milk. Although Punjab handles 90% of the country’s milk needs, this will lead to loss of income for small farmers in Sindh.
The FAO has warned that about 6 million people, or 30% of the rural population, may face acute food insecurity in 28 vulnerable districts of Balochistan, Sindh and KP and about 15-16% of the overall population. . In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Pakistan is 99th out of 121 countries. The situation is destined to worsen with destroyed crops and food prices which increase every day. The latest official estimates show that the area affected by the floods represents around 35% of the total area where cereals, sugar cane and cotton have been sown for the 2022 Kharif season.
UNICEF estimates that half a million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, requiring immediate treatment, and another 80,000 need urgent medical interventions.
In addition, 18,624,000 poultry (or 11.24 pc) and 1,156 poultry farms were also destroyed by the floods. This can have a huge impact, not only on nutrition, but also on the livelihoods of women in rural households.
It can take up to 15 years to recover if things stay the same. Dr Kalhoro has drawn up an emergency livestock rehabilitation plan for Sindh and if implemented, it is certain that the sector can recover in four years.
This involves, among other things, restocking. In the first phase, for example, some 10,000 most vulnerable households can receive a dairy buffalo; 50,000 others with five goats (including a male) and 10 birds (including a male). In addition, they can benefit from vaccination services, treatment of sick animals, food, mosquito nets and spray, as well as building materials for the reconstruction of animal shelters.
The author is a freelance journalist based in Karachi.
Posted in Dawn, November 12, 2022