‘Irrigation, drainage system Pak’s greatest challenge’

World Food Programme director visits Pakistan to see how UN can gear up to meet needs of millions of people affected.

Maha Mussadaq September 24, 2011


One of the greatest challenges facing Pakistan today is the damaged irrigation channels and drainage system, United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Asia Kenro Oshidari said on Friday.

Pakistan is facing multiple challenges at the moment, and the irrigation and drainage system is something that should be looked into, Oshidari said while speaking to The Express Tribune. “If the systems are in good working condition, the water can then actually be used and not wasted,” he said.

Oshidari, who was visiting Pakistan, said he had come to see how the agency could gear up to meet the needs of millions of people affected by the calamity.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) around 80 per cent of wheat planted in Sindh is irrigated. Rapid rehabilitation of damaged irrigation and drainage infrastructure is vital and carrying out these repairs through cash-for-work schemes will create much-needed income opportunities for the stricken communities.

Oshidari said Pakistan had faced the worst floods last year and it was facing a similar disaster again this year. Although the scale of the floods this year is not as big as last year, it is still a major disaster, he said, adding that malnutrition in Sindh is on the rise which is alarming and something which needs serious consideration.

At the moment 100,000 people are being fed by the WFP and the figure is likely to touch 500,000 in October and approximately two million after that, Oshidari said. However, for operations to proceed successfully and for better planning and management, funds need to come in soon, he added.

Heavy monsoon rains that began in mid-August damaged 73 per cent of the crops and 67 per cent of food stocks in the affected districts of Sindh, and have killed nearly 78,000 heads of livestock. Millions of people have become destitute and face massive food insecurity. Total funding requirements of the Food Security Cluster amount to $174 million.

The United Nations food agency launched an appeal for 18.9 million dollars on Friday to help farmers. The call for funds is part of the latest UN appeal for Pakistan and aims to provide emergency livestock support and critical agriculture packages to more than 300,000 needy families, it said in a statement.

“Delayed assistance will lead to heightened food insecurity, increased public health threats, loss of land tenure agreements due to farmers’ inability to pay their debts, population displacement and long-term dependence on food aid,” Kevin Gallagher, an FAO representative in Pakistan said. However, further livestock deaths and missed planting opportunities can be prevented with timely donor support, he added.

(With additional input from wires)

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th,  2011.


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