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Pakistan floods 2010
The 2010 floods in Pakistan were one of the most devastating natural disasters of our times – described as a slow motion tsunami. Beginning in late July, unexpectedly severe monsoon rains caused flash and riverine floods which combined to affect almost one-fifth of the country’s land mass, an area larger than Greece.
The humanitarian impact was immense. The disaster affected more than 20 million people, claimed nearly 2 000 lives and destroyed 1.6 million homes and key infrastructure in 78 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu Kashmir, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh.
Agriculture – the basic livelihood for 80 percent of the affected population – was hardest hit, with the loss of 2.4 million hectares of unharvested crops, and damages estimated at USD 5.1 billion. The devastated area included a large portion of Pakistan’s most fertile land, including the breadbasket province of Punjab, and already vulnerable communities.
The disaster struck at a crucial point in the agricultural calendar. Not only was it just before the harvest of spring (kharif) planted crops, such as cotton, rice, maize, vegetables and sugar cane, but was also within weeks of the critical winter wheat (rabi) planting season. Livestock surviving the flood waters lacked feed, veterinary support and shelter. With existing and future sources of food and income washed away, there was urgency to prevent a domino effect, compounding already severe losses.
Rising to the challenge
It was vital to ensure existing heavy losses were not compounded further. Farmers needed quality seeds to plant wheat – the country’s largest staple crop – from October to December, as well as inputs to prevent further livestock deaths. On-farm irrigation structures needed cleaning and repair to ensure the survival of future crops. The response required extensive coordination, planning and a sustained effort in a very constrained timeframe.
In this race against time, FAO and partners working together in the Agriculture Cluster reached over 10 million people – equivalent to 1.4 million farming families – across Pakistan within six months. This achievement was the result of unprecedented collaboration among humanitarian and governmental partners, strong connections with local communities and rapid support from the donor community. Through these efforts, vital livestock resources were preserved and the wheat planting season was possible, rather than delayed by a year.