89% people have no access to internet in former FATA

PESHAWAR: With the merger of erstwhile FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial government had entered unchartered territory, literally and figuratively, as it faced a unique challenge of implementing effective governance in the Merged Areas (MAs).

No formal governance institutions in the MAs before the merger in 2018 meant there was little data available to form a more well-informed, people-centered socio-economic development strategy.

To fill the data gaps, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Planning and Development department , Provincial Bureau of Statistics, with the support of UNDP’s Merged Areas Governance Project (MAGP) in a joint effort conducted an Accelerated Implementation Programme (AIP) Baseline Survey in 2020 with the financial support of the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).

The findings of the Survey were presented in a virtual event on Tuesday, April 13, the Additional Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr. Shakeel Qadir Khan, Chief Economist Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr. Noman Afridi, Deputy Resident Representative UNDP Pakistan Ms. Aliona Niculita, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP Pakistan, Mr. Kaiser Ishaque, MAGP UNDP Lead Economic Advisor, Mr. Musharraf Rasool Cyan, officials of the Planning and Development department, Local Government department, Agriculture department, Sustainable Development Unit (SDU), Bureau of Statistics, and representatives of the USAID and FCDO attended the virtual launch.

The district-level household survey provides valuable insight into the socio-economic landscape of one of the most difficult to access areas in the country by employing a robust methodology.

Overcoming enormous challenges in the Covid-19 pandemic, the teams surveyed more than 4,600 households with detailed profiles of more than 35,000 residents, spanning across the seven newly merged districts of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram, North Waziristan, Orakzai, and South Waziristan.

Deputy Resident Representative UNDP Pakistan Aliona Niculita, Additional Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr. Shakeel Qadir Khan, and MAGP UNDP Lead Economic Advisor Musharraf Rasool Cyan offered remarks on the occasion.

“We are excited by the prospect of ushering in a new era of data-driven and results-oriented development planning in a region little is known about and hope that this survey is a first step in filling the data gaps that are necessary for prioritizing the needs of the people,” said Deputy Resident Representative UNDP Pakistan Aliona Niculita.

The findings of the survey reveal that people of the MAs continue to face difficulty in accessing basic services, including education, healthcare, safe drinking water, municipal services, and internet connectivity.

As per the survey report, literacy rates were found to be low for the MAs with more than half (52%) respondents having no education. The gender disparity in education levels was also high as 75% of females were not educated compared to 31% of males interviewed for the survey.

The survey also identified that while 97% of households reported owning a cellphone, almost 89% of the respondents did not have access to the internet. When it comes to electric supply, 80% of the households reported having electricity at home, although electricity was only available 3.4 hours per day on average in the MAs.

The situation in South Waziristan was particularly dire with 81% of households reported having no electricity connection at all.

However, “there might be room for cautious optimism,” Ms. Niculita added. “Respondents in four out of the seven districts have witnessed almost no violence in the past year and a vast majority of the households (95%) were not involved in any clash or conflict.

When it comes to the employment rate, the survey highlighted that a whopping 96% of the women interviewed were engaged in livestock farming. Recognizing this as an untapped potential development opportunity, Additional Chief Secretary Mr. Shakeel Qadir Khan said, “The government is interested in investing in livestock farming and boosting the sector with a “quick of injection” of money. It will not only improve the employment rate, boost women’s empowerment but strengthen the local economy as well.”

Shedding light on the survey findings, Mr. Khan commended the UNDP MAGP, saying, “When we look at any kind of survey, we look for the availability of data, the reliability of the data, and finally, how the government can utilize these findings.”

“This survey will help us in planning and designing stronger development programs and calibrate the resources more effectively.”

In the closing remarks, UNDP MAGP Economic Team Lead Musharraf Cyan thanked the government for its guidance and feedback on the survey, saying, “Every good survey highlights areas where we need to look deeper. It raises important questions. We hope such efforts continue to eradicate the data gaps and the region keeps making progress.”

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