The United Nations and the Pakistani government issued a flash appeal for $160 million on Tuesday to help the country cope with catastrophic floods that have killed more than 1,100 people, destroyed infrastructure and crops, and affected 33 million people.
The funds will provide 5.2 million people with food, water, sanitation, emergency education, protection and health support, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video statement played at the Foreign Office (FO), calling the flooding a “colossal crisis”.
The aid, covering the initial six months of the crisis response, will also help to avoid outbreaks of cholera, and to provide food aid to mothers and their young children.
“Pakistan is awash in suffering. The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” Guterres said.
He branded the floods a “climate catastrophe”, saying South Asia was one of the world’s climate crisis hotspots. “People living in these hotspots are 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts,” the UN secretary-general said.
“As we continue to see more and more extreme weather events around the world, it is outrageous that climate action is being put on the back burner as global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising, putting all of us — everywhere — in growing danger,” he added.
‘CHALLENGING TIMES FOR PAKISTAN’
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also spoke on the occasion, urging nations to extend their support to Pakistan in these challenging times.
The FM said the devastation witnessed in Pakistan following the recent spell of unprecedented rains and floods showed that the country had become “ground zero” of global warming, the “biggest existential threat” of this century.
“The current cycle of super flooding we see today is part of extreme weather patterns. Unprecedented levels of cloud bursts and torrential rains have triggered widespread devastation, urban flooding, river floods and landslides, resulting in the loss of human life, livelihoods and livestock,” Bilawal said.
He described this year’s “super floods” as a “climate calamity”, adding that “what we are facing today has been no above average monsoon.
“It is an entirely new level of climate-led catastrophe.”
The FM said rainfall in Pakistan since mid-June had been equivalent to three times the 30-year national average and the southern, central and northern regions of the country were worst affected.
He said it was feared the scale of destruction caused by this year’s floods would exceed the impact of 2010’s “mega or super floods”.
Sharing details about the extent of damage, he said 72 districts were declared calamity-hit, over 33 million people were affected — which is the size of a small country — over 1,000 people had lost their lives and several others were grappling with the loss of livelihoods and displacement.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and forced to spend days and nights … under a merciless sky and [the] lack of access to food, water and shelter are making life harder with each passing day,” he lamented.
Moreover, he said the damage to infrastructure and railway networks was impeding efforts to deliver aid and to shift people from flood-hit areas to safer locations.
The FM said the situation was likely to deteriorate further as more rains continued to pummel already flooded areas.
“For us, this is no less than a national emergency. This is a life-defining experience.”
The floods, the FM said, had taken a toll on the economy and stretched the country’s resources.
He said the government was cognisant of its responsibility and had earmarked $173 million to help flood-hit people through direct cash transfers. This, Bilawal elaborated, would be disbursed through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to 1.5 million families who will each receive Rs25,000 ($115) in immediate cash relief.
Separately, Rs5 billion ($23 million) had been allocated to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for relief activities, he added.
“The government is also providing Rs1 million ($4,615) in ex-gratia compensation to the next of kin of each deceased; Rs250,000 ($1,154) for injuries and partially damaged houses; and Rs500,000 ($2,308) for destroyed houses.”
The FM went on that in addition to the financial support, food packs, shelter items including tents, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies were also being provided by NDMA and PDMAs.
“The government’s efforts are being supported by the Pakistani nation with people, civil society and humanitarian organisations stepping forward in a big way to complement the relief work with our characteristic generosity and philanthropic spirit,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2022 had also been established to facilitate people all over the country and overseas to contribute to the flood relief efforts.
But as was evident, the minister emphasised that the disaster was “colossal in its scale and devastation”.
“It has severely strained, even overwhelmed, both our resources and capacities. It has left millions vulnerable to health emergencies and a critical lack of basic survival needs,” he underscored, saying that the gap between the needs and the capacity to deliver timely was crucial at this point. Hence, it required urgent cooperation and support from the international community.
“We are profoundly grateful for the initial round of spontaneous solidarity and support from so many of our friends and partners from around the world. I would like to acknowledge and thank all our friends for the prompt financial support and relief assistance being provided by several countries as well as the United Nations, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”
The FM then pointed out the need to expand and scale up the relief efforts and response. “For that, we are launching this “UN Flash Appeal” for Pakistan’s Flood Response Plan today.
“The appeal prioritizes focused interventions in areas of education; food security and agriculture; health; nutrition; protection; shelter and non-food items; and water, sanitation and hygiene. We also need assistance with livelihoods and livestock support as well as relief machinery and equipment,” he said.
Bilawal stressed that the country immediately needed shelter and tents, and mosquito nets — if they could be arranged and transported.
The appeal, he added, was expected to address only a part of the overall requirements and would complement the broader effort. The minister further urged the international community to give its full backing to the Flash Appeal to help people.
“I encourage you to contribute generously towards meeting the funding requirements of this Response Plan, and going beyond,” he requested.
Concluding his speech, the FM said that calamity faced by Pakistan was a “manifestation of the direct and unmitigated consequences of climate change”.
“As one of the small emitters on the planet, less than 1pc of the GHG (Global House Gases) sources, in fact, Pakistan is in the frontlines of the devastations caused by global warming,” he pointed out, adding that the megafloods were proof of how the world was vulnerable to the recurring climate shocks.
Such episodes were becoming all too frequent, and increasingly more devastating, he said.
Moreover, Bilawal hoped that the international community would step up and share the burden with those most affected and impacted countries by the rapidly changing climate and weather patterns.
Addressing a joint press conference later with UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan Julien Harneis, FM Bilawal was questioned on whether the proposal to import edibles from India was seriously considered to which he said that was a concern for later and currently the government had not thought about it or taken a decision regarding it.
Explaining the scale of the calamity, Bilawal said the 33m people displaced by the floods were more than the populations of Australia, New Zealand or Sri Lanka. “We didn’t reach close to 33m people during partition,” he added.
Questioned on the lack of interprovincial harmony and coordination amid complaints of the federal government not sending aid to the provinces, the foreign minister said he had received no complaints and the federal government had shown its initiative to help.
Hitting out at the provincial governments, he said KP and Balochistan were, meanwhile, “busy in readying [PTI] rallies”. “You remember the awful visuals in KP of people desperate for helicopters and those same helicopters were used for drying Imran Khan’s rally ground but this is not time for politics,” he added.
Regarding corruption and transparency in the incoming aid and funds, Bilawal said the BISP was the best solution to those concerns as it was a globally accredited social safety net.
He also stressed that the floods would have upcoming dire effects on the economy and would impact infrastructure projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, adding, however, that the nation would confront those problems together and the government would work to make a better and stronger Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Harneis said more appeals for funds could be considered as the situation progressed and called on the media representatives present to go out and tell the affectees’ stories to inform the world about the situation.
“Pakistan’s voice is not being sufficiently heard on climate change,” he said.