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Pakistan is in the grip of a blistering heatwave with parts of the country already scorched by extreme temperatures as officials warn of acute water shortage and health concerns. Pakistan has recorded its warmest ever March and April this year, with April turning out to be the hottest month in the last 61 years. Jacobabad, one of the hottest cities in the world, in central Sindh province, hit 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday.

According to the United Nations’ ‘Global Land Outlook’ report, Pakistan is one of 23 nations that has experienced consistent drought in the last two years (2020-2022). According to a research released by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) ahead of World Drought Day (June 17), Asia has had the highest total number of people afflicted by drought over the last century. Food supply disruptions, forced migration, rapid biodiversity loss, and species extinctions will all become more common if current land degradation trends continue. According to the report, these will be accompanied by an increased risk of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19, declining human health, and land resource conflicts.

To add on, a deadly cholera outbreak linked to contaminated drinking water has infected thousands of people in central Pakistan as the country grapples with a water crisis exacerbated by this brutal heat wave.

Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has informed that high pressure is likely to grasp the upper atmosphere. Due to this high pressure, day temperatures in certain parts of Sindh province are likely to increase gradually and shall remain between 46-48°C. A resulting heatwave will impact districts Badin, Daddu, Ghotki, Hyderabad, Jacobabad, Jamshoro, Karachi, Khairpur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas, Nowshero Feroz, Sanghar, Sukkur, Thatta, and Umerkot on Sindh province.

Scientists have warned that the early arrival of a severe summer is linked to climate change, putting more than a billion people in the region at danger of heat-related consequences. In 2022, Pakistan went from winter through summer without experiencing the spring season for the first time in decades. Soaring temperatures in recent weeks have forced schools to close, damaged crops, put pressure on energy supplies and kept residents indoors. In fact, the production of Pakistan’s most popular summer export, Mangoes, has also dropped by 60%, due to the impact of climate change.

Warnings have been issued by the provincial and district governments in Sindh, Punjab and KPK provinces of extreme weather in coming days and have advised people to take precautionary measures such as drinking plenty of water and avoiding direct exposure to the sun.

The government is seeking assistance from humanitarian organisations in establishing heatwave camps/centres where affected people may find shelter and cold water, as well as receive basic first-aid treatment.

Community World Service Asia Response: In partnership with the district authorities, Community World Service Asia (CWSA) has set up a heatwave camp at a central location in Umerkot city. The camp provides shelter, seating, cold drinking water, and juices to at-risk people in the surrounding areas, as well as pedestrians who are dehydrated and are directly exposed to the sun. With the expected increase in the frequency of heat, Community World Service Asia will expand its operations to provide the same support, as well as first-aid treatment and a public awareness campaign for heatwave victims in other parts of Sindh province’s Umerkot and Karachi districts.

Contacts:
Shama Mall
Deputy Regional Director
Programs & Organizational Development
Email: hi2shama@cyber.net.pk
Tele: 92-21-34390541-4

Palwashay Arbab
Head of Communication
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Tele: +92 42 35865338

Sources:
www.pmd.gov.pk
www.aljazeera.com
www.reliefweb.int
www.reuters.com
www.cnn.com
www.expresstribune.com

Community World Service Asia has partnered with Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D) and Canadian Foodgrains Bank to implement a Humanitarian, Early Recovery and Development (HERD) program to support drought and climate change impact communities with food provision and sustainable agricultural inputs. The project aims to assist most vulnerable, rural agrarian communities in Pakistan’s rain-fed Umerkot District of Sindh. The target communities will receive immediate humanitarian support, followed by recovery and development assistance, to ensure their resilience is enhanced against future natural and man-made catastrophes.

A total of 1,125 drought and COVID-19 affected families have been provided with two monthly food packages under the project. They will continue to receive the food packages till August (to complete a period of six months). Each package has been designed in line with the Sphere minimum standards and ensures all family members receive 2100k calories each per day. The items include 60kg of wheat flour, 15kg rice, 7kg pulses, 6liters cooking oil, 4 kg sugar, 400gms tea leaves, 800gms iodized salt and of match boxes. Feedback mechanisms that are put in place to ensure quality and accountability mainstreaming have been explained to communities at various stages of the project. Communities have also been oriented on safeguarding and complaints response guidelines.

Through the provision of food packages, we aim to ensure food security of affected communities in various parts villages of Umerkot to increase their nutritional status and improve their general health. Most of these communities live in extreme poverty, with their primary livelihood of agriculture being affected by extreme weather conditions that prevent them from spending on the most basic food and health needs.

A Rapid Gender Analysis was conducted as part of the project to gather critical information and data on the local gender dynamics and the many challenges and needs that exist and potential goals and opportunities to explore and meet through the project. The analysis is a necessary first step in creating gender-sensitive, suitable, and successful programming. It is supporting in the development of practical programming recommendations to suit the needs of women, men, boys, and girls, as well as ensuring that execution does not unwittingly harm them. Additionally, an environment assessment has also been conducted to identify environmental impacts of different project activities and their possible mitigating measures.

The HERD project is a two years’ program started from January 1, 2022 with ten months of humanitarian phase and 14 months of recovery and development phase. The project will end in 2023.

Jetho, 41, resides in Rani village of Umerkot and is the only breadwinner for a family of six members, including his mother, grandmother, wife and two children. In 1990, when he was only 10 years old, Jetho was diagnosed with a bone disease. “I was not able to afford the treatment for the disease I contracted. From the government hospitals, the treatment cost was around PKR 5000 per month. My wife and mother applied some home remedies but that could not completely cure me. This condition stunted my growth and left me with a marginal disability. It is challenging to cope with the daily tasks but I have to push myself to do more as my family is dependent on me.” Agriculture is Rani village’s main source of income. In July and August, during the monsoon season, Jetho grows a variety of crops on his two-acre plot of land, including cluster beans, millet, mung, and sesame. Crop production is strongly reliant on the amount of rain that falls in the area. A good harvest allows Jetho to earn an estimate of PKR 7000 per month as he sells the surplus in the markets of Kunri and Umerkot City. Unfortunately, Rani village has not received enough rain in the last five years. As a result, Jetho started supplementing his income with managing cattle for other villagers. He earnt PKR 2500 each month through this.

Belonging to a family of generational farmers who have been growing seasonal, monsoon reliant crops, Jetho, like several others has struggled to get any harvest or produce for years since the drought started hitting their village. Farmers of Rani village have thus abandoned their lands and have switched to other labour work that allows them to earn some money. The COVID-19 pandemic further decreased work opportunities for many local communities in the area as many small and large businesses suffered losses due to lack of sales and lockdowns. Jetho is struggling to make ends meet due to lower wages. “I could not afford to buy any more seed to plough the ground. I do not see any harvest this season. The lack of rain and low agricultural production has dropped my earning by 45%. To make ends meet, I have to borrow money from my relatives or purchase food items on credit from local shops.”

Community World Service Asia’s and UMCOR’sⁱ emergency project provided humanitarian and recovery assistance to vulnerable households that are frequently impacted by natural catastrophes and climate change impacts in Umerkot. The project ensured access to emergency food and agricultural seeds for disaster-affected people so that they could resume their livelihood activities. Jetho was one of the 608 families who received food packages and eight kg of millet seeds to help commence agrarian farming. The food package contained 80 kilograms of wheat flour, 15 kilograms of rice, 8 kilograms of pulses, 7 litres of oil, 4 kilograms of sugar, 400 grams of tea leaves, and 800 grams of iodized salt, and a matchbox.

With this support, Jetho’s family is now able to eat three meals a day, with adequate portions for every family member. Farmers in arid parts of Umerkot have adapted to climate change by switching from ploughing water-intensive rice, sugarcane and maize cultivation to drought-resistant millets. Farmers in this area are encouraged to shift to growing millet, to reduce the impacts of climatic changes on their food security and standard of living.


ⁱ The United Methodist Committee on Relief

In 2020, CWS Japan, in partnership with Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and with support from Japan Platform, responded to this compound disaster in the Sindh province of Pakistan in two phases. Τhis report looks at the issues and solutions through the CWS response and some in-depth interviews conducted in October 2021, and attempts to capture the lessons for future responses to similar disasters. The report also tries to capture learnings on managing compound disasters, which are becoming more and more common.

Knowledge on the ecology of desert locusts and the forecasting of swarms have developed considerably over time, but understanding the species and having the technology for the forecast is not enough. Without international policy and implementation cooperation, and, more importantly, without the timely communication of the forecast, outbreaks will continue to happen. It is also important to improve the early warning communication pathway between the central and the regional bodies. Through the CWS project, it was found that the forecasts were not properly communicated with the residents of the affected areas, even though there was adequate time. Αnother aspect that makes locust control difficult is the irregular and long intervals between the outbreaks. The knowledge and experience gained by one generation may not be passed on properly to the next because of the length of the intervals.

“This humanitarian assistance will enable me to meet my family’s food needs for more than a month. The millet seeds will assist me in reviving my agricultural livelihood, which I want to pursue with the help of my nephew and son-in-law in make a better living. This will enable me to send my girls to school so that they may receive an education and have a brighter future. This help came at the perfect time, just when we were struggling to afford a single meal a day even,” Seeta explained.

The Village Management Committeeⁱ of Sheedi Jo Tarr village identified Seeta as a project participant under Community World Service Asia and UMCOR’s relief projectⁱⁱ. The project is supporting climate induced disaster affected families with the provision of food packages and seasonal seeds for harvesting in the upcoming farming season.

Seeta, a widow belonging to and living in Sheedi Jo Tarr village of Umerkot district, does not have any children of her own but has in fact adopted four daughters of her nephew and has raised them as her own. “I got married at a very young age. I was only 16 years old. While my husband was alive, we decided to adopt two of my nephew’s daughters. We have nurtured them as our own, and we adore them. We married our eldest daughter off at the age of 20 in 2009. It was a very joyous moment for us,” shared Seeta.

Seeta’s husband, Geneso, died of a heart attack in 2010. Following Geneso’s death, Seeta’s nephew’s other two daughters became close to her, as her nephew left them with her when he and his wife went to work in the fields. Seeta would care for the three children by herself all day, and the two younger daughters grew to love her and refused to live with their parents. As a result, Seeta has been caring for the three children on her own since then. Her nephew had a meagre income and would give Seeta a portion of it to help her care for his children. However, this was insufficient to meet all of the children’s necessities. “My husband worked in the farming industry. He had rented acreage and cultivated a variety of crops on it. I occasionally assisted him in his agricultural endeavours. However, after he passed away, it became impossible to make a decent living, as I was caring for my three girls alone. The money did not come in as frequently as it used to. I could not work in the fields on a regular basis because I had to care for my house and girls. However, I used to be able to pick cotton and chilli occasionally to earn a little money. 

Our neighbours and relatives sometimes offered cash assistance, but it was insufficient to meet our family’s basic needs. At 69 years now, working to earn a living for my family has become too exhausting for me. My daughters help me at home, but I want them to go to school so they may have a better future. My ten-year-old daughter has completed her basic schooling. The two younger ones, who are five and three years old, on the other hand, have not been enrolled in school yet. Unfortunately, I am unable to cover the costs of their schooling,” Seeta explains.

Seeta received the food package on October 8th, along with 516 other families at a distribution activity held in her village. The food package consisted of wheat flour, rice, cooking oil, pulse, sugar, tealeaves, iodized salt, matchbox and millet. “Since receiving the food package, we have been eating wholesome meals on a daily basis. My nephew and son-in-law have offered their assistance in preparing the field for millet seed sowing. We now have hope of making money from our agricultural efforts, and I intend to enrol my girls in school,” Seeta concluded.


ⁱ A community-based structure consisting of key community members, both men and women, who coordinate with and support the project team during project interventions. 

ⁱⁱ Humanitarian and recovery support to the vulnerable communities continuously affected by recurrent disasters

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Bai lives in Umerkot’s Rajari village with her spouse Ramji. Bai was born with a physical disability and is unable to walk on her own. Ramji is unable to see, and has been declared blind by doctors since he was five years old owing to an eye infection. Bai and Ramji were married to each other by their parents when Bai was 26 and Ramji was 29 years old and now are parents to two children; a son named Veeram and a daughter, Samina.

The couple earned a living through beggary in the neighbourhood and lived in a one-room house offered to them by fellow villagers in Rajari. They would go house to house or wandered in the streets until someone gave them some charity money.

“We have always wanted our children to go to school and make a better life for themselves. Unfortunately, we are unable to give them that right as we barely make ends meet by the money we receive. Our income is not steady as it depends on the charity of others. Our children also beg with us occasionally,” added Bai sadly.

Four years ago, when Veeram turned 16 years, he started working as a farmer at the local agricultural fields. He was would earn an income of PKR 7000 each month (Approx. USD 40). “Veeram is a dedicated and hardworking individual. He despised begging and felt awful whenever he saw his younger sister, Samina, begging on the streets. He was anxious to find work and support his family and stop them from begging,” Bai explained, “We stopped begging as Veeram began to provide a source of money for the family. We were living a very simple and happy life since we didn’t have to rely on begging or on someone else’s generosity for a living.”

Veeram planted cluster beans, mung beans, wild melon, millet, and sesame among other crops. He farmed the crops on a two-acre plot of land he rented from his landlord. The landlord received fifty percent of the produce as rent.

The majority of the union council that Rajari is located, is a rain-fed area, and agriculture is solely reliant on rain showers during the monsoon season, which occurs between July and August every year. Unfortunately, Rajari along with other villages did not receive enough rain this year, and subsequently the agricultural production did not meet expectations. “Veeram was unable to find work in agriculture since it became nearly impossible to harvest without rain water. We had to borrow money from the landowner to make ends meet. Veeram took a loan of PKR 10,000(Approx. USD 57) to buy groceries and cover other household costs.”

Many families in Rajari and surrounding villages were affected by the drought and the locust invasion and were left with no source of livelihood, driving them to poverty and famine. To support these affected communities, Community World Service Asia and its partnersⁱ, provided food packages and millet seeds to 516 households in the area. Each food package contained wheat flour, rice, cooking oil, pulses, sugar, tealeaves, iodized salt, matchbox, and millet. These packages have been developed to alleviate food insecurity among climate change affected communities while also enabling them to self-sustain themselves through agricultural activities.

Bai’s family was identified and selected as a project participant to receive the food package by the Village Management Committeeⁱⁱ. Bai received the food package on October 8th during the distribution activity conducted in Punhoon Bheel village, which is a kilometre away from Bai’s home.

“I was overwhelmed when I heard that our family will be receiving assistance. The food package includes nutritious food items that will last us for a good two months, as we are only four members in the family. At the distribution day, it began to rain. We are more optimistic that we will be able to cultivate the millet seed included in the package, and that my son will be able to find labour in the fields. This support has given us hope when we had no hope left and nowhere to go,” shared Bai.

Pakistani farmers have been struggling to combat the worst locust plague to hit the country in nearly three decades. Large parts of the country were hit by severe locust infestations since June 2019, with insect swarms decimating entire harvests in the country’s agricultural heartlands, leaving food prices soaring and many farming communities’ food insecure. On February 1st 2020, tackling the insects was declared as a national emergency as a large scale of crop land was destroyed in the country’s most fertile Punjab province.

Heavy rains and cyclones sparked “unprecedented” breeding and led to an explosive growth of locust populations on the Arabian Peninsula early last year. The same locust swarms made their way to Pakistan after wreaking havoc on agriculture lands in other neighboring countries, such as Iran. Locust swarms from southern Iran started migrating to Pakistan from the Iran-Baluchistan border. These locust swarms have since laid hundreds of thousands of pods which are likely to hatch as soon as they get a favorable environment. Local farmers feared their new batch of kharif seasonal crops would also be devoured by the locusts.

To mitigate further impact of the locust attacks on local small-scale farmers, Community World Service Asia (CWSA) in partnership with CWS Japan and Japan Platform (JPF) launched a project to assisted 1,600 farmer families with provision of cash grants for the tilling process in their lands. Under the project, 16,193 hectares (40,013 acres) of land has been cleared from locust eggs through introducing the tilling method to farmers in district Umerkot.

Tilling/ploughing is a renowned process used and adopted around the world to eradicate locust swarms. This process involves the ploughing of the infected land to a certain, carefully calculated depth and exposing the locust eggs to sunlight, which effectively destroys them.

“Community World Service Asia have been very supportive in Government’s effort to eradicate locust swarms by introducing innovative ideas that are much helpful for the communities. The trainings provided to the local farmers on Integrated Crop Management have made the communities resilient and have allowed them to mitigate the risks caused by the locust invasion,” shared Ayaz Kachelo, Agriculture O at the Agriculture Extension Department, Umerkot.

Through the project, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan has also been provided with 58,508 liters of Lambda Cyhalothrine insecticides to use for chemical application on the mature/adult locust swarms. The local farmers have also been further trained on Integrated Crop Management (ICM) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques as part of the assistance. Since the tilling, use of chemical insecticides and the application of new farming techniques in the area no locust swarms have been seen. The farmers in the area have in fact also been able to cultivate their lands in time due to the effective tilling process.

“We were introduced to new techniques to eradicate locust swarms from our fields, such as digging trenches in the agricultural area. We have also been supported by the project teams in tilling/ploughing of our lands. The existing locust eggs on our lands were destroyed in the process. Our lands have finally been cleared from locust eggs, eradicating any future threat to our crops, and ensuring that the lands are ready for the next cropping season,” shared Nago, a sixty-year old local farmer from Nagho bheel village in Umerkot.

Sodho is the President of the Village Management Committee and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Committee of Male Jo Par Village in Umerkot, Pakistan. He has actively been working to promote sustainable farming practices and build community awareness on DRR to enhance community resilience on recurrent hazards and climate change impacts. The Village Management and the DRR Committees[1] were established in September 2020 under Community World Service Asia’s emergency response project[2], supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan.

“I have coordinated and helped the project team conduct 19 trainings focused on kitchen gardening, fuel efficient stoves, sustainable agricultural practices and DRR since last year. It is a relief to see that our people have the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from natural hazards.”

On September 24th, 2020, an orientation for VMC members was organised to share project objectives and to familiarise members with the role of the committee and as individual members.

“All 15 members, seven women and eight men, were explained their responsibilities as VMC members. We were taught on how and when to coordinate with the project team and how we can contribute in organising project activities. By the end of the training I was also elected as the President of the committee.” 

Sodho, along with fifteen other community members, participated in a training on DRR held in October 2020. All training participants shared and learned about common natural and man-made hazards such as earthquakes, floods and fire, experienced in the region.

“The knowledge on DRR was new to the community members. They now know of and are well aware of the different disasters that their people are faced with and have identified ways of alleviating and lessening its effects. Through the training, communities were provided technical knowledge on all kinds of hazards, developing disaster prevention plans and the importance and methods of raising community awareness on DRR.”

Sodho shared a recent accident where a fire broke out at a house in a nearby village. The family was saved but they suffered a massive loss as all their essential belongings and household items were burnt.

“As an active member of the VMC, I immediately called for a meeting to discuss how we can collect donations and help the family recover from the loss. We were able to collect some clothes, food items and essential household items for the family. Through the immediate help, the family found some relief and were hopeful to recover from the monetary and infrastructural loss sooner.”

“VMC members also organised a lesson learning session for their local communities on what they had learned at the DRR training to further enhance community knowledge and capacity on preparedness and mitigation. To overcome natural and man-made disasters, the participants were told about the different disasters and how to minimize the destruction they bring to affected areas. We also shared the story of the house-fire as an example and conducted drills to show what items to save first in the case of a fire and how to prevent the damage caused by such disasters.”

Kitchen gardening, primarily engaging women in the target villages, is another key component of the project. Sodho was personally quite interested in this initiative as having an opportunity to grow healthy vegetables at home seemed like a blessing and was a new concept introduced in the village.

“I saw the benefits of kitchen gardening immediately when the team shared the concept. Growing healthy vegetables at home can bring good health to families and save money as well which was otherwise mostly consumed on purchasing vegetables from the market.”

“I encouraged all women in the village including my own wife to participate in the kitchen gardening trainings. In the last winter season, my wife grew white radish, carrots, spinach, lady fingers and pumpkin in her new kitchen garden. I could see how much she enjoyed working and bringing seeds of different vegetables and fruits from the market to grow in her garden. She is now growing watermelon, guar[3], pumpkins, bottle gourd and lady fingers.”

Sodho further added that their village, Male Jo Par, has existed for the past hundred years and in these many years no-one had ever thought of starting kitchen gardening.

“We reside in the remote areas of Umerkot. The agriculture fields are faced by severe water scarcity. The land has low productivity due to unfertile soil and lack of water. We never thought of growing vegetables in our homes so conveniently with the help of home-made fertilisers and compost. Today, families in Male Jo Par grow garden-fresh vegetables on a daily basis, improving the quality and quantity of their food consumption, nutrition and well-being.”

Sodho also participated in a training session focused on sustainable agricultural practices for farmers, conducted in December 2020 under the project. Ten other small-scale farmers took part in this training.

“Before we took the training, all of us farmers stocked all seeds together in plastic containers and could not differentiate good ones from the bad ones. We would plough the land and sow all the seeds. Consequently, not all crops would grow well. The money that we spent ploughing and harvesting the land would be wasted as the produce would not be as fruitful as expected. This year was different. We stocked the seeds in Stoneware Pots (Matka) and before sowing them, we dried the seeds for at least three days under the sun. As a result, we had a good harvest this year.”

Our village has seen a positive change since the initiation of the DRR project. There has always been severe water scarcity in our area. The RO plant[4], which is being constructed in our village, will also help our people and those of surrounding villages to a great extent. It will provide clean drinking water at a walking distance. Our wives and daughters will not have to travel far places to collect water.”


[1] These are community based structures, members consisting of community people, who are responsible to coordinate project activities and awareness building. They are the key for sustainability and viability of project activities and mobilization of available local resource.

[2] Enhancing disaster resilience against droughts in Sindh Province

[3] Guar is an important legume crop. It is cultivated for fodder as well as for grain purpose.

[4] A reverse osmosis plant is a manufacturing plant where the process of reverse osmosis takes place. Reverse osmosis is a common process to purify or desalinate contaminated water by forcing water through a membrane.

A depression formed due to strong convective clouds over the south east of the Arabian Sea intensified into a severe cyclone storm named Cyclone TAUKTAE on May 15th. Centered at a distance of approximately 1640 km south-southeast of Karachi, the cyclone posed a potential catastrophic threat to parts of India and Pakistan. On May 16th however, the Pakistan Meteorological Department reported that the cyclone will not make a landfall along Pakistan’s coastal belt and has in fact further intensified into a Very Severe Cyclone Storm (VSCS), centering at a distance of 1210 km south-southeast of Karachi. Latest reports suggest that even though the storm will not directly hit Pakistan, widespread rains, dust/thunderstorms with heavy to very heavy falls and gusty winds of 70-90Km/h are likely to occur in Thatta, Badin, Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar and Umerkot districts of Sindh province in Pakistan from May 17th to 20th May 2021. The same weather conditions are likely to impact Karachi, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Shaheed Bainazirabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Dadu districts from May 18th till May 20th.

The Government of Sindh has declared an emergency in all districts located at the coastal belt of the province. It has ordered to remove all bill boards in the area, cleared choking points of storm water drains and restricted fishermen from going into the sea or rivers until May 20th as part of preparatory measures.

Expected heavy rains in the mentioned districts may be life threatening, causing floods, severe damage to property and infrastructure and could leave affected-communities in need of Shelter, Food, NFIs[1] and WASH support.

Community World Service Asia Response:

Community World Service Asia is closely monitoring the situation. Its emergency response team is in close coordination and contact with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Sindh and other relevant district offices of the Deputy Commissioners. The teams are on standby and will start relief operations immediately if required.

Contacts:

Shama Mall
Deputy Regional Director
Programs & Organisational Development
Email: hi2shama@cyber.net.pk
Tele: 92-21-34390541-4

Palwashay Arbab
Head of Communications
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Tele: +92 42 35865338

Sources:
www.pmd.gov.pk
www.tribune.com.pk


[1] Non-Food Items

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