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Poverty and crisis


The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to Pakistanis who are struggling to recover from the effects of ongoing natural disasters, conflicts and poverty.

Country facts
  • Total population: 185 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 1.5 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 146 out of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Pakistan: 1980
  • People assisted in 2015: 420,000
  • People we are working to reach per year: 280,000

Pakistan crisis briefing

Pakistan, located in South Asia, has suffered from deadly natural disasters and regional instability. The IRC helps vulnerable Pakistanis meet urgent needs and provides support to rebuild communities.

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What caused the current crisis in Pakistan?

Pakistan has become increasingly vulnerable to humanitarian crises due to regional instability, climate change and widespread poverty.

Disasters both natural and man-made have plagued the country for over a decade. Law enforcement actions against terrorists in northwestern Pakistan have caused a million people to be temporarily displaced from their homes, while earthquakes and monsoon floods frequently effect millions more, rendering them homeless and in need of food, water and shelter.

Most recently, in October 2015, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people and damaged thousands of homes in northern Pakistan.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Pakistan?

Pakistan has several populations each with a unique set of humanitarian challenges: communities temporarily uprooted by anti-terrorism law enforcement actions, vulnerable Afghan refugees and people displaced by natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

Given such challenges, a large number of children in Pakistan lack basic education and are inadequately prepared for life and work. Many children are unable to read, write, do simple maths, work in teams and problem-solve.

Additionally, healthcare services often do not offer support for the unique needs of women and girls. A high number of women die during, before or after childbirth; and girls often do not have enough information to make informed decisions about their health.

How does the IRC help in Pakistan?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

We first began working in Pakistan in 1980, providing emergency relief, health care, education, job training and other essential services in affected communities. Since then, the IRC has expanded to support communities in all eight provinces and territories of Pakistan.

As vulnerable Pakistanis struggle to recover from the coupled effects of  poverty and natural disasters, the IRC is focusing our efforts in Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan by:

  • assisting flood and earthquake survivors with emergency relief and ongoing services
  • building and repairing homes, schools and roads
  • setting up "child-friendly spaces" where children can safely play, learn and start to heal from trauma
  • providing clean water and sanitation, and encouraging good hygiene
  • supporting rural and mobile health clinics
  • offering job training, promoting job creation and distributing seeds and other necessities
  • providing cash assistance to help vulnerable families rebuild and meet basic needs
  • working to improve the reading skills of 3.2 million children across Pakistan through the Pakistan Reading Project

What still needs to be done?

The IRC’s work in Pakistan is more critical than ever as the country strives to recover from years of catastrophic earthquakes and floods. We pledge to put the needs of those most affected by such crises, particularly women and girls, at the forefront of our efforts and to achieve measurable improvements in health, safety and education. Here’s a closer look at some of the work we will be doing over the next few years to achieve our goals.

We will continue to support Pakistanis who have been temporarily displaced from their homes, expanding our reach to places where the need is the greatest. We’ll also continue to strive for equal health, safety and educational outcomes for women and men; and girls and boys.


We plan to improve reproductive health for adolescent girls by raising awareness on key issues such as menstrual hygiene and physical changes. We will also work to ensure that women and adolescent girls are protected from and treated for complications of pregnancy and childbirth.


People should be safe in their homes and communities, and receive support when they experience harm. As a lead protection agency in Pakistan, the IRC will focus on keeping children and adults safe from abuse and exploitation. This will be achieved through programmes providing psychosocial, health and legal aid to victims and working with educators to discourage abuse in schools.


School-aged children should have age-appropriate literacy, numeracy and social and emotional skills. Toward this outcome, we will improve children’s reading and writing skills by providing quality materials for students, professional training for teachers and effective engagement programmes for parental participation and community support.

As in all our efforts, the IRC will strive to reach more people more quickly, increase the effectiveness of our work, listen to the concerns of those affected by our work, and hold ourselves accountable for our actions.

Download the IRC's Pakistan strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities until 2020.

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