Over 3.4 million Pakistani children facing chronic hunger – aid group

An internally displaced flood-affected woman takes care of her sick child admitted in a hospital in Johi, Dadu district of Sindh province on September 27, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 07 October 2022

Over 3.4 million Pakistani children facing chronic hunger – aid group

  • Estimated 76,000 children in flood-hit areas experiencing severe food shortages, risking severe malnutrition
  • According to government data, 632 of the 1,700 people killed so far in the deadly floods have been children

ISLAMABAD: More than 3.4 million children in Pakistan are facing chronic hunger, with an estimated 76,000 children in flood-hit areas now experiencing acute food shortages and at the risk of severe malnutrition, Save the Children has said.

Earlier this week Pakistan and the United Nations jointly launched a humanitarian appeal of $816 million, revising it up five-fold from $160 million, as water-borne diseases and fear of growing hunger pose new dangers after weeks of unprecedented flooding in the South Asian nation that has left 33 million people struggling to survive.

Hundreds of children have died in the deluge that has devastated large parts of Pakistan’s southern provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, either drowned as waters flooded homes or struck by diseases, some of them water-borne.

According to official figures, 632 of the 1,700 killed so far in the floods have been children. In the aftermath, as flood waters begin to recede, which officials say may take two to six months, the regions have become infested with diseases including malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea and skin problems.

“The number of people going hungry has soared by an alarming 45 percent since floods wreaked havoc across much of the country, rising from 5.96 million people before the floods hit to 8.62 million people now facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity – the majority of them in flood-affected regions,” Save the Children said in a statement, warning that hunger levels were expected to rise further with the onset of winter, putting millions of young lives at risk if urgent action was not taken.

The floods have devastated crops and livestock and, with goods scarce, prices have sources in Pakistan. The cost of basic food items has spiked since the floods, making them unaffordable for many families scrambling to survive after losing their homes and incomes.

“New research to be published next week by Save the Children found that 86 percent of families surveyed have lost their incomes since the floods, leaving them unable to afford food,” the statement added.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said about 50 percent of the water had receded in the country’s worst-hit southern Sindh province, hoping that farmers would be able to sow wheat in a first step toward returning to normal life.

The government estimates damages caused by the floods, that have swept away homes, roads, bridges and livestock, are at least $30 billion.


Pakistan led efforts for climate ‘loss and damage’ fund, now world should deliver — PM

Updated 02 December 2022

Pakistan led efforts for climate ‘loss and damage’ fund, now world should deliver — PM

  • Group of 134 states led by flood-battered Pakistan presented united front at UN summit
  • Details on how fund will operate, where it will source money will be worked out by a committee

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said Pakistan had led the effort at last month’s UN climate summit to get a deal approved for funding arrangements for climate change impacts suffered by vulnerable countries, but now the world needed to “deliver” on the landmark development.

Two-week talks in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh ended last month with a deal to establish a ‘loss and damage’ fund to help vulnerable countries pay their rising costs of climate damage. The details on how the fund will operate and how it will source money will be worked out by a committee in the coming year.

A group of 134 African, Asian and Latin American states and small island nations, led by flood-battered Pakistan, presented a united front to push through the controversial fund.

“Pakistan ably led the Global South in crafting a consensus towards climate justice. The journey has only begun,” Sharif said on Twitter.

“The world needed to continue with a win-win approach to deliver on the landmark development. Transitional Committee has its plate full with time running out fast. We have to build on the hope by resetting our priorities for a bright future.”

While climate activists have broadly welcomed the new fund, they are cautious that many aspects of its governance are still to be resolved, and it is unclear how much money it will be able to raise and from where.

The United States, European governments and other industrialised countries had swung their weight behind the fund after years of resistance, their opposition rooted in fears of being held financially liable for the impacts of their historically high greenhouse gas emissions.

But that line became tougher to hold amid the "growing gravity, scope and frequency in all regions of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change," as the final "Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan" noted.

Climate "loss and damage" includes not just harm to people, their homes and infrastructure from disasters such as floods, droughts and storms but also forced displacement from slower impacts such as sea level rise, as well as losses of cultural heritage and community livelihoods, it added.

The new fund will differ from other UN-backed climate funds because it will gather money from a far wider range of sources, including development banks and innovative sources of finance such as taxes on fossil fuels or airlines.

Traditional donor governments, including European Union (EU) members and the United States, insisted on this as a condition for supporting the fund.

They faced push-back from China and other emerging economies, so the thorny issue of who exactly will pay into the fund was put off to be settled later.

The United States and other nations have argued that China, as the world's biggest climate polluter since 2006, should have a role in contributing to the fund, which Beijing has rejected.


In Pakistan’s southwest, two Pashtun women footballers score against taboos

Updated 02 December 2022

In Pakistan’s southwest, two Pashtun women footballers score against taboos

  • Rozi Bakht and Masnoora Kakar are the first female footballers in Balochistan from ethnic Pashtun families
  • The young sports women want to serve as an inspiration for other girls from their impoverished towns

QUETTA: Two women footballers in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province are shooting for greater inclusion for women from their ethnic Pashtun community, hoping that they can become an example for other girls from their impoverished hometowns who want to pursue sports.

Meet Rozi Bakht, 23, and Mansoora Kakar, 22, who are the only women footballers in Balochistan who hail from the conservative ethnic group, the Pashtuns.

“In my village, there are meager educational facilities for girls, so how can a girl even think about playing football or any other sport?” Bakht, who hails from the remote town of Tuba Kakari in Balochistan’s backward Pishin district told Arab News, outlining her battles against both poverty and the conservative values of her community.

This undated file photo shows Pakistani woman footballer Mansoora Kakar in action. (AN photo)

But the hurdles did not dampen Bakht’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport and she began to regularly attend practice sessions at the Balochistan Women’s Football Academy (BWFA).

For the last three years, she has been the captain of her team, whose coach is a man.

“It was very challenging for me to seek permission from my parents but despite negative criticism, including attacks on my character, my father allowed me to play because he trusted me,” Bakht said during a practice session with more than a dozen other girls at a small futsal ground in Quetta on a chilly evening last week.

Bakht is the only woman from her district who plays football at the provincial level, and hopes to be a source of encouragement for other girls in her village who have a passion for sports.

Just like Bakht, Kakar, another Pashtun girl who belongs to Kuchlak, a town on the outskirts of  Quetta, is also the first women footballer from her home district. She joined the Balochistan Women’s Football Academy two years ago.

Dressed in a black tracksuit that she paired with a red head scarf, Kakar cheered along with her teammates after scoring a goal during a practice match last Saturday. Now a forward player in the team, she too spoke about the hardships she had to face when she initially expressed her desire to join sports.

“I had a passion for football since my childhood, I used to play in my home but when I enrolled myself in college, I started playing there,” Kakar told Arab News. “But when I came to know that there is a football club [for females], I came here. Now it's been two years that I am in this team.”

“When I asked for permission to play football, my family refused because it was very difficult for me to commute for practices as the ground was 30km away from my home,” Kakar added.

“I come for my regular practice matches via a local bus which is the only affordable source of transportation for me because my father and brothers have their own work and can’t provide me pick and drop services.”

This undated file photo shows footballers Rozi Bakht, second left, and Mansoora Kakar, left, during a practice session in Quetta, Pakistan. (AN photo)

Many girls in Kuchlak, Kakar said, had a passion for sports, particularly football, but couldn’t play due to familial and cultural barriers.

But Muhammad Yasir Khan, 22, the head coach at the women's academy, hoped more girls would join the football club.

“The presence of sportswomen from the Pashtun belt,” he said, “is very limited which needs to be increased.”


UAE remains largest relief assistance provider to flood-affected people in Pakistan — envoy

Updated 02 December 2022

UAE remains largest relief assistance provider to flood-affected people in Pakistan — envoy

  • The embassy of the Arab state organized a colorful ceremony to celebrate its 51st National Day
  • The ceremony was also attended by senior Pakistani ministers, politicians and veteran diplomats

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Pakistan’s flood-affected families, said its envoy on Thursday while addressing a ceremony in the federal capital to celebrate the 51st National Day of his country.
The event was organized by the UAE embassy to highlight the culture of the Arab state by setting up colorful stalls and arranging traditional dance performances.

UAE citizens performs traditional dance to celebrate their country's 51st National Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on December 1, 2022. (AN photo)

Pakistan’s defense minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif cut the cake as the chief guest of the ceremony which was also attended by information minister Maryam Aurangzeb and other political leaders and diplomats.
UAE Ambassador Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi welcomed the guest while pointing out his country’s relations with Pakistan had only become stronger with time.
“As the wise leadership of UAE always stood first to assist and provide humanitarian support to the brotherly Pakistani people, as and when needed in times of national crisis and natural calamities, it remained the largest relief assistance provider to the flood affectees,” he said.
Al-Zaabi noted an airbridge of humanitarian aid had been immediately established after the floods on the directives of President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“The airbridge of humanitarian aid established by UAE carried 57 flights to Pakistan and 205 containers carrying thousands of tons of foods, health packages and various shelter materials,” he continued.

Other than that, he added, several non-governmental organizations based in his country, such as the UAE Red Crescent and Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, were still working in the field to provide rescue and relief assistance to the survivors of the devastating floods.
Al-Zaabi said the UAE believed that the future of regional security depended on strong multilateral partnerships and a common commitment to stability and prosperity through peaceful political and economic means.
“As home to more than 200 nationalities from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, the UAE is deeply committed to safeguarding human rights and building upon its steady progress in this field,” he continued. “Over the years, the UAE has signed several treaties to protect human rights and, in October 2021, the UAE won the membership of the UN Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term for the third time in its history.”

The UAE embassy arranged a colorful event in Islamabad, Pakistan, on December 1, 2022, to celebrate the Arab state's 51st National Day. (AN photo)

The UAE envoy said his country had adopted strategies that stimulated economic diversification by moving away from oil and working for greater prosperity by relying on scientific and technological progress.
Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan’s information minister congratulated the government and people of UAE on their National Day on behalf of her country.
“The UAE is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and one of the largest foreign investors,” she said while adding that Pakistani people considered the Arab state as their second home.
“The two countries have established brotherly relations based on common heritage and multilateral cooperation,” she added.


After success of Maula Jatt, biopic on iconic Pakistani wrestler Gama Pehlwan in the works

Updated 02 December 2022

After success of Maula Jatt, biopic on iconic Pakistani wrestler Gama Pehlwan in the works

  • ‘The Great Gama’ is expected to feature international cast and crew in addition to Pakistani artists
  • Gama Pehlwan remained India’s undefeated wrestling champion during the early 20th century

KARACHI: After the enormous success of “The Legend of Maula Jatt,” veteran Pakistani scriptwriter Nasir Adeeb is working on the dialogues of a new film focusing on the life of a legendary wrestler, Gama Pehlwan.

Born as Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt in a traditional Kashmiri Muslim family in 1878, Gama remained India’s undefeated wrestling champion during the early 20th century.

Even after more than five decades of his death, he continues to be a major inspiration for wrestlers in Pakistan.

“People are not expecting an ordinary film from me after Maula Jatt,” Adeeb told Arab News, adding “The Great Gama” would make an attempt to do justice with the iconic wrestler’s larger-than-life persona.

“The film will feature original events from his life, though we will tweak the rest of the story around it,” he continued. “We are not making a documentary. We are making a film.”

Adeeb said he found the idea of making the film on Gama “unique” since no one in Pakistan had tried to bring him to life on the big screen. He added he had been reading a lot about the subject while writing the script.

“A book has been published on him in India,” he informed. “We are getting it delivered here. I have already read everything on him that is available on Google.”

Gama was popular for defeating his opponents within the first few minutes of the fight. He also challenged several national and international players and overpowered them during the peak of his youth.

“I found him to be a very intriguing character,” said producer Shayan Khan whose company, Zashko Films, is working on the project. “I feel that Gama’s strength is very inspiring. It can set an example for our youth that anything is possible if we put our mind to it. Gama went around the world while proving the strength of our region.”

Khan hoped the film would be released in 2023 after being shot abroad with international cast and crew.

“We will have locations in the European and North American region as well as Pakistan,” he said. “Our goal will be to use as much cast and crew from Pakistan as possible.”


Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

Updated 01 December 2022

Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

  • Four English batsmen scored centuries as the tourists cantered to 506-4 at the close of play
  • Australia in the past scored 494 against South Africa on the first day of a Test in Sydney in 1910

RAWALPINDI: Four England batsmen scored hundreds Thursday as the visitors piled up a record 506-4 on the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.
Openers Zak Crawley (122) and Ben Duckett (107) set the tone with quick-fire tons against a hapless Pakistan bowling attack before Ollie Pope (108) and Harry Brook (101 not out) compounded the hosts' misery.
Ben Stokes was also not out, on 34, when bad light stopped play, having helped England break a 112-year-old record for the most runs on the first day of a Test -- beating Australia's 494-6 against South Africa at Sydney.
It was also the first time four batters scored hundreds on day one of a Test.
After winning the toss England went straight into "Bazball" mode, the brand of freewheeling, aggressive play taken from the nickname of head coach Brendon McCullum.
England's fiery batting -- with 73 boundaries and three sixes -- lifted the gloom over the start, which hung in the balance Wednesday after several of the tourists came down with a mystery virus.
As if the punishment from the top three wasn't enough, Brook -- playing only his second Test -- cracked six consecutive boundaries off one over from debutant spinner Saud Shakeel.
He is only the fourth batsman to score six consecutive boundaries in a Test, following West Indians Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya.
Brook reached his maiden century off just 80 balls, capping a highly entertaining day for a crowd of 6,000 that included around 150 "Barmy Army" fans.
He added 176 for the fourth wicket with Pope, who fell to pacer Mohammad Ali.
Pakistan fought back briefly in the second session when they dismissed Duckett, Crawley and Joe Root (23) in the space of 53 runs, but that was short-lived.
England have set their sights on even more runs.
"It was obviously a very good wicket to bat on," said Crawley.
"Hopefully, we can go on tomorrow and get more runs."
Debutant leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood was the most successful Pakistan bowler with 2-160 on an unresponsive wicket.
"The pitch was similar to the one we had against Australia, but it should have been a bit more supportive," said Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq, referring to the Test played earlier this year that yielded 1,187 runs for the loss of just 14 wickets over five days.
Duckett, who hit his maiden hundred after being recalled to the Test side following an absence of six years, was the first to go when he missed a reverse sweep off Mahmood and was trapped leg-before.
West Indian umpire Joel Wilson initially ruled it not out, only to change his decision on Pakistan's review.
Duckett, who hit 15 boundaries, put on 233 for the first wicket with Crawley -- an England record for the first wicket against Pakistan.
It beat the 1962 stand of 198 between openers Geoff Pullar and Bob Barber in Dhaka, then East Pakistan.
Crawley was bowled off a sharp delivery by Haris Rauf in the next over, the Test debutant's first wicket.
The lanky Crawley hit 21 boundaries in his quickfire 111-ball innings, his third Test hundred.
Former skipper Root also fell leg-before to Mahmood, unsuccessfully challenging the decision.
Crawley showed his intent right from the start, hitting three boundaries off Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah's first over of the match, and bringing up his half-century off just 38 balls.
He could have become the first England batter to score a century before lunch on day one of a Test but was left nine short.
England are on their first Test tour to Pakistan in 17 years.