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The Impact of Natural Disasters on Livestock

Disaster refers to any event that causes immense damage and loss to society, infrastructure, and environment. A natural disaster is the negative impact that is followed by a natural calamity. 

Due to several geographical, meteorological, and environmental factors, Pakistan is prone to different types of natural disasters including earthquakes, droughts, floods, heat waves and extreme 

Climate change, increased urbanization and environmental decline are also key players that influence the abnormal and alarming rate of natural disasters that have been occurring in Pakistan. 

According to the Climate Risk Index 2021, Pakistan ranks eighth for countries most affected by extreme weather events between 2000 and 2019. Some catastrophic natural disasters Pakistan has had to overcome are as follows:

  1. The drought in the year 2000 affected about 1.2 million people in Balochistan, and over 100 died, mostly because of dehydration, according to the government. Millions of animals perished.
  2. The 2005 Kashmir earthquake killed about 73,000 people, with more than 3.3 million people homeless. 
  3. Floods in 2010 were regarded as some of the worst in the history of Pakistan as it killed 1,600 people and countless animals while leaving over 6 million people homeless.
  4. Drought-like conditions, which began in late 2018 and continued through 2019, affected five million people
  5. Record-breaking desert locust infestation in 27 years was declared a national emergency by the Government in January 2020.
  6. September 2020 was a devastating time as heavy monsoon rainfalls flooded major areas of the Sindh province, triggering a national emergency.

Currently, Pakistan is battling another natural disaster as 1/3 of Pakistan is under water due to heavy flooding. Major regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab are submerged in water and struggling to stay afloat. According to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), as of 29 August 2022, more than 33 million people have been affected and more than 1 million houses damaged or destroyed. The death toll reached 1,136 people throughout the country. This number is increasing every single day alarmingly.

It is not just the humans that are suffering the dire consequences but animals, in particular, livestock animals are also negatively impacted due to these natural hazards. Millions of livestock animals are at risk of death and disease, seriously damaging the livestock sector of our agricultural unit. 

“Livestock in this country are the poor people’s mobile ATM,” said David Doolan, Senior FAO Officer, in charge of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) programmes in Pakistan. “In good times people build up their herds and in bad times they sell livestock to generate cash. Every animal we save is a productive asset that poor families can use to rebuild their lives when the floods finally pass.”

Here are some ways in which livestock is affected by the current floods sweeping the nation. 

Severe feeding shortage 

The biggest challenge faced by livestock farmers during these unprecedented times is being able to feed their livestock to keep them alive. Livestock food such as straw and fodder gets lost in the floods or their prices hike up due to shortage.  Reduced feed quantity and quality, changes in pest and disease prevalence, and direct production degradation owing to physiological stress all contribute to having a major impact on livestock systems 

Being left behind due to transport issues

There are several photographs of livestock farmers clutching onto their animals for dear life as they are not just holding onto livestock but rather the source of their income and the reason their upcoming generation will go to sleep with full bellies. However, during search and rescue operations, smaller livestock animals like goats, sheep and chickens can fit on the boat but larger animals like cows and buffaloes cannot and for buffalo and cattle, it is essential to enable the herds to rebuild quickly during the next breeding season.

Increase in life-threatening diseases 

Water-borne diseases become extremely common during flood seasons. Additionally, lack of clean water and being surrounded by contaminated water bodies is extremely detrimental to livestock health, leading to several physical and mental complications. Lack of food and water can lead to malnutrition and dehydration which becomes the gateway to disease in livestock. It is imperative and urgent that these livestock animals get medical treatment and attention. the scarcity of fresh drinking water was so severe that animals were forced to drink flood water during that time which can be life-threatening. 

The livestock sector of Pakistan is 56% of value addition in agriculture and nearly 11% of the gross domestic product (GDP), making it one of Pakistan’s major sectors and a crucial system that ensures food security, economic development and livelihood. It is our duty to ensure that an empirical plan to ensure the safety of livestock animals during these natural calamities is thought out and executed.