Imran Khan-led cabinet denies funds for drought relief

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VIAZafar Bhutta
SOURCEThe Express Tribune
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ISLAMABAD: The federal government has refused to contribute funds to the relief operations for drought-hit families in Sindh and Balochistan.

Earlier, the provincial disaster management authorities (PDMAs) of Balochistan and Sindh approached the federal government, seeking its contribution to the relief operations launched for the drought-stricken families.

Following request from the provincial authorities, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) prepared a plan for providing ration bags worth Rs4.25 billion for one month to the drought-hit families. In this regard, the NDMA prepared a summary and tabled it before the cabinet for approval.

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The cabinet, in a recent meeting, was informed that the current drought in Sindh and Balochistan had hurt around 5 million people and livestock. The provincial governments had initiated relief operations, yet a significant number of families remained unattended to.

Therefore, the PDMAs of Sindh and Balochistan sought the NDMA’s support. Accordingly, the cabinet was told, the NDMA sent a summary for approval of the prime minister for the provision of ration bags worth Rs4.25 billion for one month to the drought-affected families.

The cabinet was briefed that in order to overcome the prevailing drought, the NDMA, in consultation with the PDMAs of Sindh and Balochistan, UNOCHA and other donor agencies, had finalised a joint coordinated drought response structure on January 22, 2019 and prepared a drought response plan in collaboration with the UNRC.

The drought response plan worth $96.3 million focused on short, medium and long-term interventions for one year in pre-identified areas ie nutrition, health, food security and agriculture, education, and women and child protection.

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The UNOCHA had approved a grant of $10 million to facilitate the respective sectors in responding to the needs of affected communities with an additional $1 million and possibly more would be allocated by the Pakistan Humanitarian Pool Fund (PHPF) reserve.

The cabinet was informed that the plan was earlier forwarded to the prime minister for approval. The premier gave directives for constituting a committee, headed by the finance minister, to discuss the drought response plan and the prevailing drought in Sindh and Balochistan, and send its recommendations to the cabinet.

The committee held its meeting on March 11, 2019, chaired by the then finance minister. The minister for inter-provincial coordination and National Assembly deputy speaker, being public representatives of drought-stricken areas, and director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority Balochistan attended the huddle.

The committee recommended that the drought response plan for 2019, prepared by the NDMA, may be approved without any funding from the federal government in light of its restricted functions and role after the 18th Constitutional Amendment as well as the 9th NFC Award, which gave majority of the resources to the provinces.

In line with the directive of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the drought response plan along with recommendations of the committee was sent for approval of the cabinet. The cabinet, chaired by the prime minister, approved the plan with the stipulation that no federal government funding would be involved in the programme.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2019.

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