A drought can be defined as an extended period in which rainfall is lower than the average natural rainfall. Long periods of droughts result in inadequate water supply and eventually lead to public health problems among the local communities.

In Pakistan, Sindh and Balochistan are the regions that are at risk of droughts in low rainfall years. Most recently, in September 2018 the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD)’s Met Office had issued a drought alert for Sindh and Balochistan because of extremely low monsoon rainfall. They have advised all stakeholders to be ready to handle the situation and take necessary action when required.

Balochistan lies in the arid zone and hence receives scanty rainfall. The districts of Balochistan that are frequently affected by droughts include; Kharan, Sibbi, Killa Saifullah, Washuk, Mastung, Barkhan, Chagai, Kalat, Nushki, Panjgur, Lasbela, Musa Khail, Awaran, Jhal Magsi, Bolan, Gwadar, Kohlu, Dera Bugti and Killa Abdullah.

Health implications:
Researchers have long been studying the effects of extreme climates on the health and lifestyle of the people. The health implications of drought are numerous and diverse; some are short term, others may be observed after years and while some might pass silently. Since droughts are slow rising periods, the direct or indirect effects of droughts on health of the people are difficult to establish or monitor. Nonetheless, some of the most common health related issues linked directly or indirectly to drought are:

– Increased airborne dust and particulate air pollution leading to asthma, respiratory allergies, and airway diseases.

– Reduction in the availability of fresh water increase the risk for diseases associated with poor hygiene such skin infections, food poisoning, gastroenteritis etc. Moreover, dehydration can be another implication.

– Droughts can also compromise agricultural production, decreasing food supply and hence causing malnutrition among the communities.

– Due to a compromised health, opportunistic infections are also common in drought struck areas such as Tuberculosis (T.B), Hepatitis and Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic fever.

In the context of Balochistan, during the drought period of 1997 – 2002 there were an increased number of incidences of the Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) due to the droughts in the region. The disease was first noticed in September 2000 in district Loralai where it affected several people. Malnutrition, T.B and Hepatitis have also been recorded to affect thousands of locals in Balochistan drought areas as reported by the Pakistan Disaster Management Authority Balochistan.

A possible solution to reducing the health problems generated by droughts lie in efficient and timely action in case of such an emergency. The PDMA and Health Authorities must collaborate in such a way that time delays do not add to the issue. Through proper planning, monitoring and timely action in drought struck areas of Balochistan, all sorts of health implications are manageable. The Basic Health Units (BHUs) and District Headquarters (DHQs) in drought areas must be equipped and their staff including the lower staff must specifically be trained for extreme climate related health concerns in the area.

The Balochistan Nutrition Project for Mother and Children (BNPMC) must expand its branches into the drought risk areas whenever there is an alert so that the vulnerable mother and children are least affected by the effects of drought. Moreover, awareness campaigns must be conducted during drought alert season in the risk areas so that the locals are aware of what they can do to prevent health problems among their community during a drought.


About Author

Zara Arshad is a medical undergrad student from Quetta, Balochistan. She has an experience of around 2 years in blog writing. Her areas of interest are health journalism, women empowerment, education and health for all.

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