Six months since extreme flooding submerged one third of Pakistan, 5 million people remain living in flooded areas, while food insecurity and malnutrition across the country has intensified.

The IRC is warning that an estimated 14.6 million people are in need of food assistance, including 8.6 million people who are experiencing an extreme level of food insecurity and are facing impossible decisions on how to cope, skipping meals and selling off assets. With farmland and agriculture still submerged, families are unable to grow food or earn an income. Women and children are at risk of exploitation and abuse, while families are forced to sell assets to make ends meet.

As winter takes hold and temperatures drop to below freezing, many communities affected by the floods now face the daunting challenge of surviving without housing, food, clean water and fuel sources for warmth. Since the floods started in July 2022, the IRC scaled up its emergency response and is now present in 20 districts, delivering lifesaving assistance including shelter, health services, emergency cash assistance, winterisation & dignity kits and the provision of safe drinking water, to almost 1 million people. This includes over 230,000 women and girls, who are at particular risk of violence and exploitation during times of crisis, and have been supported with services such as safe spaces and medical care.

Shabnam Baloch, IRC Pakistan Director, said,

“July’s floods have changed the course of Pakistan’s future, and the last six months have proven immensely challenging for the communities served by the IRC. Since the floods started, families across the country have struggled to make ends meet, particularly as much of the country’s farmland and agriculture have been irreparably damaged by the rains. Many do not have enough to eat; some 8.6 million people are experiencing extreme hunger.

“Pakistan represents another example of a failure to confront the shared global risks posed by the climate crisis. The world cannot continue to look away from these catastrophic events striking the most vulnerable countries, many of whom hold little responsibility for the climate crisis but experience all of the consequences: hunger, malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water, and loss of livelihood.

“Fragile states like Pakistan - which accounts for less than 1% of global emissions - are ground zero for the climate crisis and we need to proactively invest in adaptation and prevention measures to prevent the next flood from becoming as damaging as the last flood. “The country is also particularly vulnerable to climate shocks but has little capacity to invest in preventative infrastructure. Funding streams such as the loss and damage fund established from COP27 is a strong first step by global leaders toward addressing this imbalance, and any funds pledged must be fulfilled without further demurring or delay. As well, more must be done to ensure that humanitarian agencies and civil society organisations can navigate the complex processes in place to access any climate funding.

“However, from the Pakistan floods to the drought in east Africa, extreme weather events are becoming a global norm, leaving people and communities with diminishing time, resources, and ability to adapt, recover, or build resilience. If this year sees a similar cycle of increased temperatures and rain, it will strain already overstretched national resources and deepen humanitarian needs.”

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) began operations in Pakistan in 1980 in response to the growing number of Afghan refugees. Our teams delivered food, shelter, safety, primary healthcare, education, vocational training, water supply systems, sanitation facilities, and other essential services to the Afghan refugees and host communities. Since then, the IRC now serves a wide group of marginalised, vulnerable, and impoverished groups across the country with public health, environmental health, education, disaster risk reduction, community services, and livelihoods support.