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Poverty and injustice in Pakistan

Even before the devastating floods in Pakistan, many of the affected areas were already suffering from extreme poverty. As well as responding to the aftermath of the floods, we’re now working to address this issue. 

The disaster has drawn a massive emergency response from Concern Worldwide and our fellow humanitarian organisations. We have been working in remote areas where aid had been sparse for many years before the flood.

Unexpected problems

Most of the affected areas were already very poor and vulnerable. We had anticipated the grave needs of these communities. But what we didn’t expect were such chronic conditions of poverty, malnutrition and poor health. We also discovered extreme conditions for tenant farmers and labourers – especially in Sindh Province. 

No rights for tenants

These tenant farmers work very hard for very little. The landlords benefit much more from the land than they do. Seasonal tenants are paid only a third of the profit gained from the harvest. They have no rights or formal relationship with the landowner – who is often an absentee landlord – once the harvest is over. Several attempts have been made at land reform, but a lack of political will put an end to that.

Childhood malnutrition

Children are the major victims in all of this. A UNICEF report, “Children in Pakistan: Six Months After the Floods,” shows that malnutrition is at emergency threshold levels. These figures are on a par with those from the most severely affected areas in Africa.

Cautious optimism

I am cautiously optimistic that the spotlight on the country’s very poorest people will have long-term beneficial effects. But the task at hand is staggering and far greater than we initially envisioned.