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Pakistan: flood-stricken farmers rush to plant before winter

23-11-2010 News Release 10/214

Geneva/Islamabad (ICRC) – Tens of thousands of displaced flood victims in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are racing against the onset of winter to restore their homes, clear flood debris and plant crops.

"The challenge for returning subsistence farmers is to till the land and sow the winter cereal crop before the temperatures drop too much for good germination," explained Peter Shamberger, the economic-security coordinator of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Pakistan.

Farm machinery donated by the ICRC is being used around the clock to prepare arable land for sowing, and distributions of seed and fertilizer are enabling farmers to plant the critical winter cereal crop. In Pakistan, this crop not only feeds many farm families for much of the year after harvest, but also provides surplus grain to sell or exchange for other commodities as well as seed for the next sowing season.

The ICRC is also supporting Ministry of Agriculture veterinary activities and enrolling people in cash-for-work projects clearing debris and renovating farm irrigation systems. In addition, it continues to fund Pakistan Red Crescent health units and repair water facilities, besides carrying out other traditional assistance activities.

In flood-stricken areas of southern Pakistan, the situation is even worse: "Large areas remain inundated and some farmland will not drain in time to be sowed this year," said Pascal Cuttat, head of the ICRC delegation in Pakistan. "We are continuing our emergency relief distributions to thousands of needy families in Sindh, Balochistan and parts of the Punjab. Before year's end, around 1.4 million flood victims will have received food rations."

Since the flood commenced, the ICRC, working together with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, has provided one-month food rations and hygiene items for 900,000 flood victims, and shelter and household items for 560,000 flood victims. Throughout this period, 200,000 victims of fighting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas have continued to receive food rations from the ICRC.

Medical emergencies arising from water-borne diseases have not reached the levels anticipated, thanks mainly to preventive measures and swift medical help. The health focus has now shifted to preventing or treating mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and to alleviating malnutrition among those deprived of regular food supplies by the flooding.

"We must maintain our focus on the crises currently afflicting Pakistan," said Mr Cuttat. "Even though the plight of the victims of the fighting and flooding is no longer much reported in the news, an enormous amount of vitally important work still needs to be done."

For further information, please contact:
Michael O'Brien, ICRC Islamabad, tel: +92 300 850 8138
Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02

For access to the ICRC FTP site and information on TV footage:
Claire Doole, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 76 336 43 42,   E-mail: cdoole@icrc.org


Photos

Those farmers lucky enough to have  

Those farmers lucky enough to have "only" lost their crops and who still have a plot of land to work fear that the soil has been irreparably damaged. They say that the once rich and brown soil has turned grey and hard and that green shoots are not returning.
© ICRC / D. Revol / v-p-pk-e-00991

By the end of November, the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society will have distributed wheat seed, fertilizer and hand tools to 30,000 families. 20,000 more families in Balochistan will receive the same aid in the next few days.  

By the end of November, the ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society will have distributed wheat seed, fertilizer and hand tools to 30,000 families. 20,000 more families in Balochistan will receive the same aid in the next few days.
© ICRC / D. Revol / v-p-pk-e-00994

As winter approaches in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, north-west Pakistan, farmers are in a race against time to plough fields and sow seeds before the drop in temperature prevents them germinating.  

As winter approaches in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, north-west Pakistan, farmers are in a race against time to plough fields and sow seeds before the drop in temperature prevents them germinating.
© ICRC / D. Revol / v-p-pk-e-00995