Dr. Saeed Ahmad Ali
LAHORE, Sep 3 (APP):Experts have highlighted a pressing concern regarding the vulnerability of women and children in Pakistan to the adverse health effects of climate change.
This heightened susceptibility primarily arises from the precarious nature of their livelihoods and their enduring struggle with income poverty. When confronted with episodes of food scarcity, drought, or flooding, women and children are disproportionately burdened by hunger and an array of vulnerabilities, as pointed out by the Climate Change Division in 2013.
The urgency of taking action in this context cannot be overstated.
The experts emphasize that addressing this critical issue necessitates extensive collaboration among various stakeholders, including government agencies, national societies, the private sector, civil societies, NGOs, and our entire community.
The enormity of the challenges posed by climate change and the exacerbated risks faced by vulnerable populations make it clear that no single organization can effectively combat these threats in isolation. It is only through collective efforts that these entities can mitigate the direst consequences of the climate crisis.
Environmental advocate Khalid Mahmood Qamar underscores the alarming global temperature rise, which has been accelerating for decades.
The annual mean global temperature has surged by 0.57°C in the last century, with both maximum and minimum temperatures showing an upward trend. Qamar notes that hot days have become even hotter, while cold days have become warmer. In Pakistan, regions such as the hyper-arid plains, arid coastal areas, and mountainous terrain have experienced a temperature increase ranging from 0.6–1.0°C between 1960 and 2007.
Drawing from a recent Asian Development Bank report, Qamar warns that Pakistan’s current temperatures are projected to continue rising. By 2100, the mean temperature is anticipated to soar within the range of 3–6°C, with a particularly steep rise expected after 2050. This projection surpasses the global average, and certain regions within Pakistan will witness even more substantial temperature increases.
Muhammad Irfan, the dedicated manager for a resilient and greener future at WWF, emphasizes the likely impact of climate change on agricultural yields in Pakistan. Factors such as droughts, land availability, and shifting crop seasons are poised to render farmers, particularly women and children, increasingly vulnerable to the health and livelihood repercussions of climate change.
Over 80 percent of farmers in the country are smallholders, with approximately one-third of the land relying on rainfed agriculture. Irregular rain patterns and unpredictable weather changes have disrupted agricultural livelihoods, making them uncertain and challenging to sustain.
Irfan further notes that the agriculture sector’s low adaptive capacity stems from the limited transferability of livelihood skills. Livestock also plays a pivotal role in the livelihoods of impoverished farmers, rendering them highly susceptible to water scarcity, heat stress, and reduced fodder availability.
These challenges not only deprive them of immediate income and nutrition but also have ripple effects on the non-farming sector. As the expansion of the non-farming sector is closely tied to agricultural development, the potential loss of livelihoods among farmers could undermine purchasing power and indirectly impact this sector. Therefore, climate change casts a profound shadow over the lives of the impoverished masses, farmers, and the broader economy, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive and collaborative action.
In urban areas, the adverse effects of climate change, such as heat stress and urban flooding, are particularly impacting the lives of residents. These challenges are forcing many people into substandard living conditions with inadequate sanitation facilities.
According to a report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) focused on Pakistan, the agriculture sector employs approximately 42 percent of the population and contributes around 21 percent to the GDP, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country.
It is noteworthy that Pakistan, over the years, has transformed into a food surplus nation and a significant wheat producer. This surplus is distributed to vulnerable populations through various mechanisms, including the World Food Programme (WFP). However, recent data from a national nutrition survey reveals that a staggering 36.9 percent of the population faces food insecurity.
This alarming food insecurity can be primarily attributed to the impact of climate change, which includes phenomena like droughts, desertification, and flooding. Additionally, economic access remains limited for the poorest and most vulnerable groups, especially women and children who struggle to maintain a diverse and adequate diet.
The same survey also indicates a troubling rise in malnutrition rates in the region. Approximately 18 percent of children, mostly under the age of 5, suffer from acute malnutrition. Furthermore, around 40 percent of children in the same age group experience stunted growth, while 29 percent are underweight. This situation is not unique to Pakistan but reflects a broader issue in developing countries across South Asia.
Complementary feeding indicators in the region are far from acceptable levels. Only one in seven children aged 6–23 months receives a meal with the minimum dietary diversity, including at least four different food groups. Shockingly, around 82 percent of children do not receive the minimum recommended number of daily meals.
In response to these pressing challenges, the government of Pakistan has launched an initiative aimed at enhancing food security, boosting exports, and reducing the country’s dependence on agricultural imports. To this end, the government recently established the Land Information and Management System Center of Excellence (LIMS-COE), designed to promote modern farming on over 9 million hectares of previously uncultivated agricultural land. Saudi Arabia has provided an initial investment of $500 million to improve the country’s irrigation system, contributing to this effort.
The LIMS-COE will collaborate with several countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and China, on various agriculture projects. These projects aim to increase food productivity, which has been adversely affected by climate change, and to expand exports.
Former Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, Chaudhary Tariq Bashir Cheema, expressed optimism about the government’s initiatives and their potential to bolster the agricultural sector and improve the livelihoods of farmers.
In response to a question, the former minister underscored the critical role of research and innovation in mitigating the losses incurred due to climate change. He emphasized that these efforts are vital to achieving sustainable agricultural development and realizing the goal of self-sufficiency in food security and production