Pakistan has a long history of being disproportionately affected by natural disasters. The greater frequency and increasing intensity of these disasters have had an adverse impact on the livelihoods and food security of the affected population; particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable living in the remote, rural parts of the country. Between 2010 and 2012, Pakistan experienced three consecutive floods due to unprecedented monsoon rains.
The 2010 floods, which had a devastating impact due to its scale and severity, took the lives of 2,000 people, and destroyed 1.6 million housing units and depleted 1.5 million livestock. The lives and livelihoods of some 20 million people, an estimated 12 percent of Pakistan's population, were impacted and almost one-fifth of the country's total landmass was submerged, resulting in severe levels of damage. The rural areas of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab were hit again by flooding in 2011 and 2012, significantly setting back long-term planning and recovery interventions.
In 2011, a detailed livelihood assessment (DLA) was conducted to understand the livelihood and food security situation of affected households and the recovery pattern almost one year after the floods. This was followed by another study in 2012 – the Livelihood Recovery Appraisal – which looked into the recovery of those households affected by floods in 2011 and identified priorities for assistance in order to help households achieve sustainable livelihoods. The Livelihood Recovery Appraisal (LRA-2013), conducted by the Pakistan Food Security Cluster, is a follow-up of these two studies and aims to look into the impacts of the 2012 floods and current status of recovery in terms of livelihood and food security one year after the floods. The appraisal also looks into the coverage and effectiveness of assistance provided by the Government and humanitarian actors after the 2012 floods as well as the resilience of affected households and communities.
LRA-2013 was conducted in seven districts severely affected by the 2012 floods through a household survey. A total of 5,004 flood affected households were covered during appraisal. In addition, 770 households were assessed from non-affected communities in the same districts as a control group for comparison. To assess resilience, focus group discussions and key informant interviews were conducted in selected communities and institutions respectively.
This survey covered households affected by floods of 2012 and one or both of the floods since 2010. However, the findings suggest that these households covered by the appraisal, where the frequency of natural and man-made disasters is high, have been living in a state of complex vulnerability. Overall, 30 percent of households reported that they experienced at least one disaster from as far back as ten years prior to the 2010 floods, the consecutive impact of which led to a heightened, and difficult to recover from, state of vulnerability. The frequency of disasters, especially flash floods, was quite high in Punjab where 53 percent of households reported experience; furthermore, one third (33 percent) of households faced at least one shock in the six-month period immediately prior to the survey. Such shocks also affected the ability of households to recover from 2012 floods.
In addition, LRA-2013 identified the vulnerable households in affected communities that have less capacity to respond to and recover from natural disasters and food security threats. Households earning income from day labouring and non-farming activities and female-headed households were more vulnerable in this regard.
Impacts of floods and the path to recovery
The findings of the appraisal indicate that some recovery has taken place in flood affected communities whereas households affected twice or three times from floods between 2010-12 were lagging behind in recovery. Similarly, households in Balochistan also showed fewer gains in recovery in terms of their food security and livelihood situation.
Frequency and duration of displacement as a result of natural disasters was quite high; 80 percent of the surveyed households indicated having experienced displacement at least once following the 2010 floods with the highest ratio in Balochistan. One out of five households were forced to leave their homes three times in this period. The duration of displacement was also reportedly high, where one fourth of those households were displaced for more than four months, which reduced their capacity to cope with the negative impact of floods.
The agriculture sector, which is considered the back bone of the rural economy, also appeared to have recovered less as a whole. In Rabi season of 2012-13, 24 percent of farmers were not able to cultivate their land due to late inundation of water and displacement, coupled with unavailability of agriculture inputs. The situation was worse in Jafferabad and Jacobabad districts where 37 and 35 percent of farmers respectively were unable to cultivate their land. Affected farmers reported being unable to make a full recovery even eight months after the floods at the time of Kharif sowing. 8 percent of farmers were not able to cultivate their land in Kharif season primarily due to the destruction of irrigation channels and financial constraints. 13 percent of the farmers changed their cropping pattern by introducing flood resistant crops or through reduction in planted land.
A significant reduction in livestock ownership was reported due to livestock losses and distress selling, with the highest reduction reported in Balochistan. After one year post-flood, almost no recovery was reported in this sector, which significantly affects the income level and food security situation of affected communities. Similarly, little recovery was reported in the area of domestic and productive assets.
In general, 13 percent of households reported that they had changed their livelihoods. A shift was reported from the farming sector to non-farming activities with more reliance on income support. A positive impact in this respect was reported in an increase in livelihood diversification after the floods that can lead to greater resilience against future disasters and emergencies.
Overall income levels of the affected communities decreased after the floods and were mostly not recovered even a year from floods. 44 percent of the respondents reported that their income level is not recovered to their pre-flood situation.
Due to limited recovery in livelihoods and reduced opportunities, households were forced to borrow debt to meet their needs. Three out of four households reported borrowing debt following the floods with the highest ratio of borrowing seen among in middle-income families. The most cited reasons for taking on debt were to fulfill household food needs and to cover health expenses.
The food security situation was of particular concern in flood affected areas. Only 15 percent of households reported adequate level of food consumption, and 20 percent fell into the poor food consumption category. A large majority (65%) were having a borderline consumption situation, which could slip into poor group if faced with certain shocks, or could improve to adequate consumption level with appropriate interventions. Households from Balochistan, and those who earn income from day-labor, appeared more insecure in this regard. Detailed analysis of diet patterns reveals that cereal is still very important and essential part of the daily diet. However, the consumption of protein and other nutrition-rich food items such as lentils, fruits and meat by the poor group and even by the borderline group is very low. This lack of food diversity is of great concern, and is contributing to poor nutrition situation.
Respondents reported that they relied on markets for access to almost all types of food items, therefore reduction in income level and restricted access to cash made them more vulnerable. In addition, any fluctuations in market food prices are likely to have a significant impact on household food security and nutrition status.
Food expenses account for a substantial share of total household expenditures for poor and food insecure households. Some 46 percent of surveyed households were spending more than 60 percent of their income on food only, and meeting food needs was the number one reason for debt for most families. Again day-wage laborers and female-headed households appeared more vulnerable in this regard.
By combining the above indicators, i.e. food consumption score and expenditure on food, some 35 percent of respondents were found to be food insecure and the remaining 54 percent were in the borderline category. Only 11% of the households were thus found to be food secure. Food insecurity was highest in Balochistan (47 percent of households) followed by Sindh (41 percent). Day wage labors and female-headed households were also among the most vulnerable in this regard.
Level of coverage and satisfaction with interventions received
The findings of the LRA-2013 show overall coverage of humanitarian interventions to be low compared with previous years. This is primarily due to insufficient financial resources channelled into relief effects.44 percent of households surveyed confirmed that they received food security assistance. Nonetheless, a significant decline in coverage for assistance was reported in the early recovery period with only 26 percent of households reportedly receiving assistance.
An analysis on the profile of households who received assistance by wealth category revealed that those benefiting from the assistance were spread over all wealth categories and livelihood types. One possible explanation is that in areas affected by the floods, the humanitarian assistance covered all affected households irrespective of the wealth or livelihood status due to the nature of the emergency response. However, it does point towards the need to make effort in better targeting of humanitarian assistance to the extent feasible, particularly for recovery activities, to ensure to cover the most vulnerable. Similarly, as in previous years, segmentation in response was observed, where households reported receiving only one or two types of assistance post-floods, which is insufficient to fulfill a household's complete relief and recovery needs. Assistance for long-run recovery and rehabilitation was largely absent in affected areas.
Self-help initiatives taken at the household level, post-disaster, included the housing repair which appears to have been the highest priority for people. Other activities undertaken were cleaning irrigation channels, land leveling, the improvement of flood protection barriers, and searching for new employment. 20 percent of the homeowners reported shifting the location of their housing or making amendments in the design of their housing to enhance the protection of property against future flooding. Another 10 percent of respondents reported changing the location of equipment, livestock or other assets to protect them from future flooding.
The frequency of disasters appeared to be positively correlated with the resilience level of households. Households affected three times by floods in the 2010-12 period showed significantly higher levels of resilience, especially in terms of social safety net and stability. Among the livelihood groups, day-wage laborers appeared to be the least resilient group and diversification of livelihoods appeared as an important driving factor for increasing the resilience particularly as it related to strengthening social safety nets and the adaptive capacity of households.
Female-headed households appeared the least resilient group overall but with better adaptive capacity and stability in livelihoods.
At the community level, focus group participants reported very few awareness raising activities for DRR in flood-affected areas. Those that had participated in NGO funded programmes reported receiving training on safe evacuation routes. In some locations, farmers formed committees for discussions on DRR planning. The participation of women in these activities was found to be low; Sindh was the only province where focus group participants reported women involved in discussions on DRR activities at the community level. A much higher number of initiatives related to DRR were reported in Rajanpur district in Punjab where communities are vulnerable to repeated flash flooding, but they felt that DRR related activities and planning had limited impact due to severity of flooding over the past three years. Much greater investment and attention is required to deal with the situation.
The data for the analysis of institutional resilience was collected through semi-structured interviews with officials from those. As reported by NDMA, support provided by the national authority was timely and appropriate; however, the authority acknowledges that the support provided was not sufficient in quantity compared to the considerable scale of flooding in recent years. The Emergency Relief Cell (ERC) also carried out a major operation after the 2010 floods, and other disasters, providing cash, food and NFIs to affected communities. The watan card was a key modality put in place by the ERC, which achieved vast reach, as reported in DLA and LRA-2012.
ERC considered assistance provided during floods to be timely and appropriate but not sufficient to meet the needs of the communities.
Provincial line departments reported the availability of sufficient and qualified human resources to handle emergencies and participate in DRR activities. However, they do not have the required financial resources. Due to climatic and impact variations between the provinces, PDMA officials are seeking a greater role in policy formation. There is agreement among stakeholders that Pakistan's early warning system needs strengthening.
Better plans need to be developed for evacuation of people and livestock. Coordination mechanisms among different stakeholders also need to be strengthened; but principally, provincial institutions consider the cluster system an effective forum for coordination to those ends.
Support needs expressed by the households
Cash grants, food aid and building materials were the most important current support needs for the households identified by the respondents. Similarly, for longer term needs (next six months), food assistance, cash grants and agricultural support remained the top three priorities. Other significant support needs included health services, credit, employment and drinking water.
In order to continue to improve the recovery process for affected communities and to increase resilience in hazard prone areas, LRA-2013 suggests the following key areas for programmatic focus in 2014 and beyond. It should be noted that while these key areas of support listed below are in no particularly order of importance, the food security and livelihoods of the populations will benefit significantly by taking action in these areas.
Support to the agriculture sector: a major constraint of limited recovery in the agriculture sector includes destruction of irrigation channels and unavailability of agriculture inputs. Provision of inputs and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes should be prioritized in future planning.
Restoring productive assets: productive assets, particularly livestock, were the least recovered or restored asset after the floods. Support for farmers in restoring livestock and other productive assets will measurably improve the food security situation for a given area.
Increase access to cash: as a consequence of the floods, household income levels were badly affected. Major constraints in this respect include disruption of livelihoods and reduction in livelihood opportunities. Consequently, affected communities were forced to adopt negative coping strategies, including restricted consumption of food, selling productive assets and taking on debt. Increasing access to cash will not only enable households to meet their food needs but also strengthen their ability to withstand the negative effects of future shocks. Access to cash can be ensured in multiple ways, including cash grants, livelihood support, conditional cash support and micro-finance.
Targeted support to vulnerable households to ensure food security and nutrition: food is one of the most important household support needs reported by households in the LRA-2013. Results indicate that only 15 percent of households in affected areas have adequate food consumption, even one year after the floods. The food consumed by the poor and borderline households consists of mostly staple cereals, and the use of nutritious items like meat, other animal products, lentils, fruits and vegetables was reportedly minimal. Almost three quarter of the households surveyed were reportedly under debt and food was the main reason for new debt for more than 83% of the households. Thus targeted support to enhance household food security and nutrition should be a high priority.
Support to rebuild homes: the need for building materials was requested by affected households in almost every surveyed area, especially in Balochistan.
Improved response planning: LRA-2013 indicates that coverage of humanitarian interventions was low in aftermath of the 2012 floods. Assistance in the early recovery period was even lower, and interventions in long run recovery and rehabilitation is almost negligible. In addition, further efforts should be made to support the most vulnerable households. There is a need for continued support to ensure the complete recovery through improvements in planning and targeting.
Increase resilience of hazard prone communities: LRA-2013 indicates that awareness regarding DRR is slight in the affected areas. Improving the awareness among communities regarding DRR/DRM and strengthening social safety nets is also a priority; investment in DRR programs is vital to this end. Further, the promotion of flood resistant crops and improved irrigation practices is suggested. It is also recommended to promote and encourage diversification of livelihoods in rural communities. Specific attention should be given to female-headed households.
Strengthening disaster related institutions
The role of Government institutions is vital in mitigating and preventing flooding and strengthening the capacity of national and local institutions will help achieve that end. Ensuring the required financial resources are available, improvements in human resources of government institutions and the necessary physical infrastructure are central elements in this process, which should be backed by investment in R&D, improvement of early warning systems, enhancement of coordination mechanisms and improvement and expanded participation in policymaking.