The major chunk of the population of Chitral mostly relies on subsistence agriculture, livestock rearing and plant orchards as a source of livelihoods to make ends meet.
The parts of Upper Chitral affected by the recent floods and rains come under the same realm. Thus, the livelihood sources – agricultural as well as non-agricultural – in the affected areas have hugely been damaged, thus by ripping all off from their cherished source of sustenance, that could help them feed their families, had they been intact.
As every family in the affected areas has been impacted in some way or other in terms of crop and orchard damage, livestock loss etc. in addition to the displaced people who already lost everything, and thus falls in the category of affectees.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and the UNO jointly carried out a multi-sector rapid needs assessment (MS-RNA) in 10 worst affected districts of KP, including Upper Chitral, recently. The purpose of the study was to quickly assess the damages and identify the immediate needs of the affected households,that could help provide data and information to pave the way for their instant relief and rehabilitation efforts.
Chitral Upper was included in the assessment, hence villages affected in Upper Chitral are only part of the study. The enlisted areas were identified by the district administration Chitral Upper that included different villages in Union Councils of Tehsil Mastuj and Tehsil Torkhow/Mulkhow.
The affected villages of Tehsil Mastuj comprised Reshun, Booni, Awi, Sor Laspur, Chuinj, Khuz, Brep, Meragram No 2, Bang Upper, Pavur, Sholkoch, Shoost and Broghil. Whereas in Tehsil Torkhow/Mulkhow, union councils of Lot Oveer, Khot, Rech and Terich were affected.
My colleague and I, representing the Hashoo Foundation, were part of the assessment team. The group was composed of members representing different national and local NGOs operating in KP. Given the exigency, the assessment crew was split into different teams that simultaneously visited different areas of the district. The RNA employed Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) Method, wherein a customized mobile based questionnaire facilitated the data collection process. The teams visited all the identified areas and interviewed the key informants that included both males and females.
The findings of the extensive study will come out in details in due course of time and will be used for the intended purpose. However, due to the multitude of issues/challenges currently faced by the affectees that pose existential threats and thus require immediate remedial actions, I am putting down my thoughts, that are purely based on my own observations with the intent to inform and facilitate other philanthropic and government organizations who may want to provide relief to the affected households.
The arrangement of shelter/restoration of houses for the displaced families, provision of food for all the affectees, fodder for their livestock, agricultural inputs, and immediate restoration of the irrigation channels, I observed are few of the most urgent needs, the swift provisions of which may help ward off the immediate existential threats faced by the affected communities.
As most of the affected localities such as Broghil, Pavur, Brep etc. lie on high altitude and winters are about to set in in those areas. The displaced families are still camping under the open sky, and one cannot imagine the intensity of cold the areas get in winter season. In addition to that, almost all the households in the affected areas lost their income sources such as crops, vegetables, and fruits to the prolonged torrential rains and GLOFs.
The fodder for the livestock also decayed due to continued exposure to dampness, resulting in impacting the livestock, thereby jeopardizing one of the main sources of livelihood of the mountain people. It is because, the disaster hit the high lying areas hard before the crops (grain, maize), vegetables (onion, tomatoes etc) fruits (apple, pear, grapes) and fodders were collected and preserved for future use. Besides, the irrigation channels have also been washed away by the continued rain.
Given the situation, among the issues discussed, the immediate support that could somehow instantly allay the sufferings of the vulnerable families are provision of shelter to the displaced families and delivery of food to all the affected households. The remaining issues may later be dealt with, but immediately after the most burning are addressed.
As the displaced families in upper Chitral may hardly be in the range of 200 households, constructing shelter for them should not have to be a greater challenge. However, food arrangements for all the affected families pose greater challenge for the government and other agencies, because the number of affected families are massive. Yet there are few suggestions which may help the concerned agencies to tackle the food insecurity.
Since the inhabitants of the disaster hit areas face severe food insecurity due to crop damages, the acute shortage of grain in the Godowns are reported to have compounded their miseries. Thus, the shortage in the granaries should be eliminated and enough stock of grain must be ensured in the respective facilities on exigency basis. In addition to that, the government must ensure that, the subsidized flour which is sold through mobile vans be shipped to the affected areas with enough stock, so that, the people could afford to buy in cheap rates and store them.
To sum it up, like other affected areas, the people of Chitral Upper are in dire need of relief and rehabilitation initiatives. Figuratively speaking, the people are currently in the mercy of vagaries of life and desperately trying to figure out ways to reverse the tide. The situation is such that, with the winters fast approaching on the mountains, the displaced people are anxious and beset by hopelessness imploring for a shelter to protect themselves and their families, and the food stock with all the affected families is dwindling at a faster pace.
Unless extraordinary efforts are not employed to provide relief to the distressed, the snowfall will set in, and life will come to standstill in those areas. It should be racing against time to do the needful, so that, the probability of humanitarian crisis can be avoided.