Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has encountered a series of unexpected shocks during 2020 that pushed the most vulnerable people into compounded crises with little opportunity for recovery, and affecting nearly every part of the country.
Drought-like conditions in 2019 were followed by a winter emergency across much of the western parts of the country. The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic shock, coupled with public health measures, dealt a severe blow to livelihoods and the economy, disrupted education, and caused increased food insecurity. In September, the Government declared a national emergency due to major monsoon-triggered floods in Sindh Province. The floods affected 2.4 million people and left thousands of people displaced, living on streets surrounded by water, and without access to clean water or sanitation.
In November, the Government reinstated cautionary measures due to a second wave of COVID-19 infections. This has increased the stress on a vulnerable population that has been moving out of poverty. An estimated 40 million to 62 million people are persistently and chronically vulnerable to food insecurity while also being exposed to natural hazards, with a global acute malnutrition rate of 17.7 per cent. These shocks particularly affect women and children from disadvantaged households, home-based domestic workers and daily-wage earners (small shops, self-employed people and families). These vulnerable groups, particularly people with disabilities, elderly people, women, children and adolescents, are at heightened risk of resorting to negative coping mechanisms. These repetitive disasters have also exacerbated existing gender inequalities and discrimination, particularly within families, affecting survivors’ psychological and physical health.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan hosts over 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees and refugees of other nationalities and asylum seekers under UNHCR’s mandate. There are also some 880,000 Afghan Citizen Card holders and an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 undocumented Afghans. Most refugees reside in areas with the highest multidimensional poverty indicators. Thirty per cent of the registered Afghan refugees are hosted in 54 refugee villages, but the majority are widely spread out in urban and semi-urban areas and live within host communities. Increased support to these communities is critical in the wider context of the economic and social shocks experienced in 2020.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic, prevention and mitigation measures and the global economic fallout will continue to have a large-scale socioeconomic impact throughout 2021, especially on people already living below the poverty line. The economic stress will likely result in growing unemployment, inflation and poverty. According to IMF, poverty is estimated to rise from 24.3 per cent to 40 per cent, and the economic impact will be most acute on vulnerable groups and the refugee population.
The meteorological department has predicted severe cold weather, including snowfall and rains over the winter. Monsoon floods are expected in 2021 as the adverse impacts of climate change continue to undermine traditional livelihoods and coping mechanisms. Most women living in rural areas and engaged in agriculture are experiencing food insecurity and water shortages. Recovery in flood-affected and other disaster-affected districts is likely to be slow, and many people may fall further behind due to additional shocks in 2021. All of this could lead to increased food insecurity and malnutrition, along with increasing morbidity and mortality, particularly among children and pregnant/lactating women.
Response priorities in 2021
Most of the humanitarian response is nationally led from the Government, religious communities, the private sector and the people themselves. The humanitarian country team will complement national efforts by reaching the most vulnerable people while addressing priority gaps and strengthening the coordinated response between the aid community and Government counterparts at federal and provincial levels.
Multisectoral responses are required for the most at-risk communities identified in priority districts. This is due to repetitive natural disasters leading to displacement and damage to homes and infrastructure, the recurrence of acute food insecurity and high prevalence of acute malnutrition, and pre-existing vulnerabilities aggravated by the continuing impact of COVID-19. There will be a specific focus on strengthening the protection of the most vulnerable people from all forms of violence and upholding their rights. The protection of refugees also remains a priority.
To ensure the response reflects the needs of the most vulnerable sections of the population, such as women, girls, people with disabilities and other at-risk groups, there will be a strong focus on operationalizing commitments on accountability to affected people. This includes establishing a representative system and showcasing the complementarity of assistance with the support received from the Government and other inputs, while strengthening mechanisms for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
The humanitarian response will target 3.3 million people, including 1.4 million refugees, of the 10.5 million people in need who are living in the most vulnerable districts. Some $285 million is required in 2021 to provide food security, livelihoods, nutrition programmes, primary health services, including women’s health, WASH7 and education support, as well as shelter for those displaced.
- Mainly floods occurring every year or every other year, with additional emergencies such as the severe cold weather and heavy snowfall in 2019-2020.
- Proof of Registration (PoR) card holders.
- In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (58%) and Balochistan (23%).
- Ehsaas is a Government-led umbrella social safety net programme that includes the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme, providing support to over 12 million beneficiaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.