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Who was most affected by the flooding?

In Pakistan five groups were severely affected by the 2010 floods. Below we introduce the normal circumstances of these five vulnerable groups prior to the floods.

Rural subsistence farmers

Photograph of Kalash Plow. In Pakistan in 2001, harvests are done with a plow pulled by bulls ©Eric CHRETIEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Amongst the most severely affected were rural farmers. Many lived in homes of mud brick or mixed construction, with a household size of between seven and eight people. Many did not have land tenure; some being tenant farmers, while others were locked into sharecropping arrangements with rich landlords.

The rural poor relied on subsistence agriculture and livestock (sheep, goats and cattle) for livelihoods. Livestock represented a family’s ‘savings’ and cattle were of particular value for ploughing. Women of the household were generally responsible for livestock husbandry and the men for crops.

Families grew maize, sorghum and millet for straw and fodder, and maintained seed stores for sowing (Qasim 2015). Depending on geography and climate, cotton, rice, root vegetables, sugar cane, tobacco, orchard fruit and maize were grown for food and trade, much of it harvested up until the end of the summer (Kharif crops). From September onwards, winter (Rabi) crops such as wheat were sown. This production contributed to national markets during the lean period.

Urban poor

Photograph of a Pakistani woman washing her clothes on the bank of the river Indus in the southern city of Sukkur ©ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images

In urban areas, population density, unplanned growth and development on floodplains, as well as poor urban development practices, ageing or poorly maintained drainage, sanitation and solid waste infrastructures, and failure of flood protection infrastructure all significantly altered flood dynamics.

Households tended to be large in urban settlements but houses were small and poorly constructed; eight or more inhabitants was not uncommon. The loss of human lives as a result of flooding had a disproportionate impact on the urban poor and socially disadvantaged.

IDP population

Photograph of a boy silhouetted in front of a washing line at Utmanzai relief camp near Charsadda, northwest Pakistan, on September 24, 2010 ©CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images

As of 2010, 2 million people (60% of whom were children) had been internally displaced in Pakistan by ongoing conflict from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP). This peaked in 2008-2009. Although data is limited, it is very likely that poverty rates were greater amongst the IDP population than any other group source.

IDPs lived in rented accommodation or with host families. However, as IDP numbers soared in 2008, host community resources became overwhelmed and an increasing number were hosted in camps. Many IDPs did not register with the government or camp administrators and so could not access assistance.

Illegal immigrants and refugees

Photograph of Afghan refugees entering Pakistan across the Torkham border carrying their meagre belongings 03 November 2000 ©TANVEER MUGHAL/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan was also a destination for international migrants, many of whom were undocumented or illegal, and a minority who were seeking refugee status from countries such as Afghanistan. Whilst some were living in refugee villages or camps many were living in host communities. Many were subject to the tactics of Pakistani security forces, keen to persuade them to return home.

Tensions existed as a result of Taliban activity. There had been a history of Taliban activity in and associated with groups in Pakistan. Those in-country illegally suffered from insecure income, security challenges and marginalisation.

Women

Photograph of Pakistani women making a traditional Sindhi rilley, used as a bed sheet or decor, at a makeshift tent camp in Karachi on October 6, 2010 ©ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images

Across the country, and specifically within the groups mentioned above, women were disproportionately affected by the flooding.

Women tended not to have formal identification cards, even if they were from Pakistan. Female-headed households and widows were particularly disadvantaged, as they often lacked formal identification and evidence of land tenure. Cultural norms around women and girls, dowry, and female babies meant that there was a relatively high incidence of forced marriage, child brides and gender-based violence.


References

Qasim, S., Khan, A. N., Shrestha, R. P., and Qasim, M. (2015) ‘Risk perception of the people in the flood-prone Khyber Pukhthunkhwa province of Pakistan’. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction [online] 14, 373-378. available from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.001 [9 April 2020]

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This article is from the free online course:

Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

Coventry University