As the Pakistan government issues nationwide warnings about severe heat waves expected to reach large parts of the country, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is warning that rising temperatures pose a deadly threat to the population, 8.6 million of whom are now experiencing food insecurity.

Up to 26 districts are likely to be affected by the heatwaves and repercussions are likely to exacerbate the existing consequences of drought and extreme flooding. Since July 2022, widespread destruction of agricultural land  has led to food prices skyrocketing and households unable to feed their families. 

Meanwhile, longer term effects have stretched to education with many communities in Sindh and Balochistan - provinces hardest hit by heatwaves and floods - reporting disruption to children’s schooling as a result of school closures. A recent IRC report showed that the shock felt by Pakistan’s education system in the wake of the July 2022 floods was greater than that caused by two years of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, 2 million children across Pakistan have been unable to access education, while 3.5 million are continuing to face interruptions in their schooling as a result of the floods.

Shabnam Baloch, IRC Pakistan Director, said,

“Despite generating less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan is bearing the brunt of climate change with the most devastating consequences. The devastating impact that extreme weather events are having on communities across Pakistan cannot be underestimated. Heatwaves, in particular, can have long lasting and far-reaching effects on future generations. 

“The IRC’s report on learning losses in Pakistan found that 14% of households surveyed in Sindh province reported that their children’s education was disrupted due to heatwaves. Meanwhile, 17% of households reported that their household income decreased by over a third a during hot months. As a result, we are seeing an increase in families turning to extreme methods of survival, including resorting to child labor and child marriage in order to secure an income. 

“The world cannot afford to ignore the climate crisis in Pakistan. As a country contributing least to global gas emissions, the responsibility of responding to the damage caused by events like heat waves and flooding must be shared across the international community. Pakistan is now facing extreme temperatures that could last over one month. This is a critical moment for world leaders to recognise their role in protecting populations from catastrophic harm and deliver the urgent funding and support needed to ensure Pakistan’s population is safeguarded against climate change.”

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) began operations in Pakistan in 1980 in response to the growing number of Afghan refugees. We currently have over 1,500 staff and volunteers, and 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. Before the floods first started in July 2022 year, the IRC was on the ground with teams deployed to areas that were likely to be the worst hit. In Sindh and Balochistan, IRC teams were prepared to deliver cash assistance, shelter and emergency items to families with no means of escaping the rising waters. IRC is also working with the government in the province of Sindh to strengthen health systems under the ‘Global Nutrition Model’. IRC reached more than 1.4 million clients with emergency assistance.