Dried up wells, dead livestock, and families split apart: three people caught up in the deadly Balochistan drought share their experience with Islamic Relief aid workers in Chagai.
One by one, the wells dried up
Khaer Baksh was a shepherd before the drought made conditions unbearable in his village, Muhammad Hasan Loos, in Chagai district.
“For the last year, there has been no rain in our area, resulting in loss of land and cattle,” said Khaer Baksh, 42, who has six children.
“Water was always scarce in our area but we used to dig new wells and get sufficient water. For the last few years, even after digging wells 100 feet deep, we couldn’t find any water.
“I used to go to other areas to get water for my family. Slowly, one well after the other started drying up. I can’t see my children suffer, so I decided to move. All the families in our area moved to Dalbandin.
“It’s difficult to find a job here. I am cutting wood in a shop. No matter how hard and long I work, I can’t cut more than 100kg of wood each day. I earn PKR 130-200 (1.5-2 USD) every day. The weather is very cold here and my children are getting sick. I want a better future for my children.”
Praying for rain
Mubarak Ali, 48, is desperate to remain at home in Naik Muhammad village – but the fight to survive just gets harder every day.
“I love my area as I belong here and I don’t want to migrate,” said the father-of-eight, who before the drought used to earn a decent living as a farmer.
“I have five acres of land on which I used to grow wheat, cucumber, okra and other vegetables. People from our area have won awards on record breaking levels of production of these vegetables. Those were good days.
“Islamic Relief gave us off-season farming tunnels, but they have been destroyed in the drought. Our wells have dried up. All our agricultural land is barren now. The cattle have died and those that remain will not survive this winter.
“There is no water in our area, not even for drinking. My children and I fetch water from nearby villages. Most of the people from my village have moved to Dalbandin city but it’s a hard decision for me to leave my land.
“With every passing day, it is becoming difficult for us to survive. There are no other livelihood opportunities for us. The weather is cold and we are left with few resources now. We pray to Allah for rain. We need immediate help.”
Hoping the good days return
Like Mubarak, grandmother Gull Khatoon cannot bear to leave her home in Malik Ismail village, with all its happy memories.
“Our lives were passing joyfully,” said the 65-year old, who, having raised four sons and three daughters, now has 25 grandchildren. “We used to live together as a family. We had more than 400 goats, I used to make wool woven items and sell them to the local market.
“Most of our goats have died due to unavailability of fodder – now just 20 are remaining. We used to grow different vegetables but our land is barren now. Wells have dried up, there is no water for drinking. My son brings water from other villages.
“All of [my children] but one have moved to different cities after the drought destroyed everything. All the families from our village have gone, but I can never leave my house. I have never been in a vehicle in my life, and I will stay here.
“My son still goes to the fields with the hope that it might rain and good days may return. We need water and livelihood opportunities so my son can earn something.”
The government has recently declared an emergency situation, with about 1.9 million people thought to be suffering as a result of the drought in Balochistan, Pakistan. Islamic Relief, which has been working in the region for nearly a decade, has launched an urgent intervention to repair water facilities and restore livelihoods for those affected.
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