The most vulnerable bear the brunt of climate change
20 January 2023
Most people living in areas affected by the floods, even if safe from the inundations, are indirectly impacted.
Following the floods that destroyed the mud house she was living in with her family, Zahida, an Afghan refugee living in Quetta, expressed her distress ‘I am in a constant state of fear and anxiety’. She now has no choice but to sleep in the open air with her husband and children. ‘Our children are exposed to direct sun, flies, and dangerous diseases’, she explains.
The recent floods have been a catalyst for the risks faced by vulnerable populations of Pakistan. The already marginalised are now exposed to even more precarious situations. Afghan refugees, notably, are already at the margin of the existing social safety nets and lack access to public services and protection mechanisms. They now remain out of the reach of most relief campaigns.
Zahida deplores ‘we don’t hold any identity cards, so we are not eligible for many food relief packages or other kinds of support.’ Amongst all, women are even more at risk: those who have taken refuge in ad-hoc refugee centres, for example, are now at higher risk of gender-based violence.
Sakina, a mother of five hailing from Quetta, struggles to feed her family. ‘My husband worked in a brick-making workshop’, she explains. ‘The water damaged his factory, and now no work is left for him.’ Though part of her house still stands, she worries about what the future holds for her family. ‘People like us don’t have savings. We consume what we earn in a day.’
On the ground, the existing family and community networks have been able to withstand some of the impacts on the population, with village and neighbourhood structures providing food, water, and shelter whenever possible. But though the water will recede, the effects of the floods will be felt for much longer. Sakina is preparing for difficult times ahead: ‘For weeks, there has been no gas or electricity. With winter approaching, life will become even more difficult for us.’
For immediate response, UNDP Pakistan is rehabilitating 25 school and hospital buildings in Balochistan to facilitate women like Sakina and Zahida. The work entails repairing structures damaged by floods in Nushki and Qila Abdullah in addition to renovation of buildings.
In Balochistan UNDP is also working on a pilot initiative allowing communities to discuss their grievances related to climate change with their elected representatives. The pilot, an innovative approach to environmental justice, becomes even more crucial as principles of inclusivity and climate resilience must from now on guide all development efforts.
As the United Nations’ lead agency on recovery and reconstruction, UNDP is also working with partners and Government of Pakistan on assessing the flood damage and recovery needs. In both short and long term, UNDP’s recovery programme seeks to support communities to rebuild their homes, find meaningful employment, and strengthen their capacity to mitigate the impact of future crises.
Story by: Yann Cres, Social Inclusion Senior Expert, Decentralization, Human Rights and Local Governance project, UNDP Pakistan