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Poverty and crisis


The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to Pakistanis who are struggling to recover from the effects of ongoing natural disasters, conflicts and widespread poverty.

Country facts
  • Total population: 192 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 1.8 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 147 out of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Pakistan: 1980

Pakistan crisis briefing

Pakistan, located in South Asia, frequently suffers from deadly natural disasters and regional conflicts. The IRC helps vulnerable Pakistanis meet urgent needs and provides support to rebuild communities.

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What caused the current crisis in Pakistan?

Pakistan has become increasingly vulnerable to humanitarian crises due to regional conflicts, climate change and widespread poverty.

Disasters both natural and man-made have plagued the country for over a decade. Violent military conflict in the North Waziristan region has driven a million people from their homes, while earthquakes and monsoon floods have left another million homeless and in need of food, water and shelter.

Most recently, in October 2015, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people and damaged thousands of homes along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Pakistan?

Pakistan has several populations each with a unique set of humanitarian challenges: communities temporarily uprooted by law enforcement, vulnerable Afghan refugees and people displaced by natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

Given such challenges, a large number of children in Pakistan lack basic education and are inadequately prepared for life and work. Many children are unable to read, write, do simple math, work in teams and problem solve.

Additionally, healthcare services often do not offer support for the unique needs of women and girls. A high number of women die during, before or after childbirth; and girls often do not have enough information to make informed decisions about their health.

How does the IRC help in Pakistan?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

We first began working in Pakistan in 1980, providing emergency relief, health care, education, job training and other essential services in communities affected by conflict and natural disaster. Since then, the IRC has expanded to support communities in all eight provinces and territories of Pakistan.

As the country struggles to recover from the effects of widespread poverty and natural disasters, the IRC is focusing our efforts in Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan by:

  • assisting flood and earthquake survivors with emergency relief and ongoing services;
  • building and repairing homes, schools and roads;
  • setting up "child-friendly spaces" where children can safely play, learn and start to heal from trauma;
  • providing clean water and sanitation, and encouraging good hygiene;
  • supporting rural and mobile health clinics;
  • offering job training, promoting job creation and distributing seeds and other necessities;
  • providing cash assistance to help vulnerable families rebuild and meet basic needs;
  • launching the Pakistan Reading Project to improve the reading skills of 3.2 million children across Pakistan.

What still needs to be done?


People should be protected from illness and receive medical treatment when they need it. We plan to improve reproductive health for adolescent girls by raising awareness on key issues such as menstrual hygiene and physical changes. We will also work to ensure that women and adolescent girls are protected from and treated for complications of pregnancy and childbirth.


People should be safe in their homes and communities, and receive support when they experience harm. As a lead protection agency in Pakistan, the IRC will focus on keeping children and adults safe from abuse and exploitation. This will be achieved through programs providing psychosocial, health and legal aid to victims and working with educators to discourage abuse in schools.


School-aged children should have age-appropriate literacy, numeracy and social and emotional skills. Toward this outcome, we will improve children’s reading and writing skills by providing quality materials for students, professional training for teachers and effective engagement programs for parental participation and community support.

As in all our efforts, the IRC will strive to reach more people more quickly, increase the effectiveness of our work, listen to the concerns of those affected by our work, and hold ourselves accountable for results.


Download the IRC Pakistan strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.

Our impact

In 2015, the IRC and our partner organizations in Pakistan provided:


children and youth with access to IRC-supported schools and educational opportunities.

Through the Pakistan Reading Project, we’re working to improve the quality of reading education in over 30,000 schools.

Explore our education work.
1 Million

people with access to primary and reproductive health care.

We support rural and mobile health clinics to reach vulnerable people in isolated areas.

Explore our health work.

people with cash or asset transfers to allow them autonomy in providing for themselves and their families.

We’re helping to rebuild livelihoods with cash transfer programs that allow people to purchase the basic goods and services they need.

Read more about economic wellbeing.

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