Pakistan: Severe winter Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation n° MDRPK018

Situation Report
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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

From 11 to 13 January 2020, several parts of Pakistan were hit by heavy rains and snow fall which resulted in flash floods, avalanches and landslides. According to a situation report issued by the NDMA , as of 23 January total of 107 people have been reported dead. Among them, 21 were reported dead in Baluchistan, 5 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 2 in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and 79 deaths have been confirmed by SDMA in Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Roads are still blocked in many areas in Kashmir and Baluchistan and the situation will be cleared by the first week of February. Due to blockage of link roads some communities are still either blocked or are moving around with a great deal of risk due to heavy snowfall. Assessment reports have been received from PRCS branches of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), GB and Baluchistan. As per assessment reports, there is a possibility that losses and damages figure will increase in the coming days. The provincial government of Baluchistan has declared a state of emergency in 11 districts and requested NDMA via letter dated 13 January to allow humanitarian organizations to support PDMA to reach out the people in need. AJK government also declared Neelum, Leepa Valley and Bhadi as disastrous hit areas, while nominated a Relief Commissioner to look after the relief activities.

The heavy snowfall – two to three feet – was recorded by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) in Ziarat. In Baluchistan, Quetta and Zhob each received more than one foot of snow, while in Neelum district the snowfall recorded was six to seven feet. BBC news has reported that the snowfall this year has been historical for both Kashmir and Baluchistan. Quetta, Ziarat, Harnoi, Kan Mehtarzai, Muslim Bagh, Khanozai and Khojak Pass were blanketed in snow. Due to heavy snow fall the highways in Quetta-Sibi, Quetta-Karachi and Quetta-Zhob are blocked. According to the PRCS assessment report, around 20,000 families are affected by the harsh weather conditions. Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that around 1 million people have been affected by the cold wave (around 140,000 families) while the total number of people in the affected districts stands around 2.5 million.

In Kharan, Panjgoor and Gwadar districts, heavy rains have been reported which resulted in flash-flooding in different area of mentioned district. In total, 56mm rainfall was recorded in Turbat, 40mm in Pasni and 26mm in Pishin.

In Kashmir, the worst affected district is Neelum (Extreme North District of AJK) due to heavy snowfall, rain and avalanche created havoc, where 79 people died, and more than 91 houses are completely destroyed. Upper parts of Neelum are disconnected with DHQ Neelum. The total population affected by the avalanches in District Neelum is 910 households (6,370 people), however 3,134 households (21,938 people) were indirectly affected due to the heavy snow.

Astor Valley has received a record-breaking snow in some areas breaking 100 years record (Media and Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority - GBDMA). In total, two people died due to avalanche while four injured. The snow has paralyzed life in the region, with residents in northern valleys restricted to their homes. Gilgit Baltistan authorities mobilized all their resources to open the blocked roads and to assist the people in need.

As a result of heavy rain and snowfall on the upper reaches of Neelam and Leepa and some top mountainous parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was disconnected from rest of the country through land routes. The roads and telecommunication networks were badly affected in AJK, Baluchistan, KP and GB and adjoining areas because of downpour in plains and snowfall on mountains. All this has not only caused a death toll but has also halted the lives for thousands of local people, Another similar spell of heavy rain and snowfall is expected in this region, as indicated by the Pakistan Meteorological Department, which will further exacerbate the harsh living conditions of people and will make them vulnerable to pneumonia and respiratory infections in absence of proper clothing, shelter and health care.

Considering the heavy snowfall, the movement of local community will be restricted until the season ends, which is till March or April. The local people make their living through daily wage jobs, livestock raring, farming, or local small businesses. Blockage of pathways and roads will directly affect their livelihood activities. Additionally, the extreme cold weather conditions (up to minus 16°C) has also restricted them to their houses and as per the Meteorological Department another cold wave is about to hit these areas, which will ultimately decrease their purchasing power for fulfilling their food and basic needs with no income generation.

During a meeting on 23 January between representatives of the NDMA, PRCS, IFRC Country Office (CO) and IFRC Asia Pacific Regional Office (APRO), the NDMA requested the National Society for its support in addressing the needs of the people affected by the disaster. NDMA Chairman, PRCS Secretary General, PRCS Chairman, IFRC CO senior management and APRO Regional Director, all were part of this important meeting where the current conditions of the disaster affected areas including Neelum and the most affected districts of Baluchistan were discussed in detail and how PRCS can supplement the Government’s on-going response. Keeping in view the National Society’s outreach and its past experience, NDMA was confident that PRCS’s support will be very useful if provided in a timely way. Therefore, PRCS decided to address the gaps that needed to be covered through shelter, wash and livelihood assistance.