By Imtiaz Ahmad
Pakistan is bearing the brunt despite contributing less than one percent in global warming. Pakistan is facing one of its worst humanitarian crises after record rains and melting glaciers caused catastrophic floods, in recent months that swept away houses, crops and public infrastructure while affecting the lives of over 33 million people across the country. The deluge has killed nearly 1,600 people, including 324 people who died of water-borne diseases caused by stagnant water. Skin infections, dengue, diarrhea and malaria are rampant in parts of Pakistan’s flood-ravaged regions. The floods caused a staggering loss of over $30 billion in damages to an already weakened infrastructure.
Water is now mostly receding across the country, with all rivers at a low or very low flood risk level. Pakistani authorities have warned that it could take 3 to 6 months for the water to completely recede.
At least 23,900 schools damaged or destroyed. Over 2.7 million people have been treated for water-borne diseases in flood-hit regions since 1st July 2022. 1.21 million houses have been partially damaged, while 581,000 have been fully destroyed, across Pakistan. 57% of the refugee population assessed by International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa do not have safe drinking water in their communities. In Sindh, significant and prolonged power outages have been reported, affecting at least 900 villages.
Several UN human rights experts have called on member countries in Geneva to help floods-hit Pakistan, calling it an international obligation.
Humanitarian agencies are racing to provide emergency aid to the people affected by floods in Pakistan. Since August 28, at least 118 aid flights from different countries and international aid agencies have arrived in Pakistan. UAE, US, Russia, Greece, Turkey, KSA, Qatar, China, France, Oman and UN agencies, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP etc, are leading humanitarian efforts sending critical food supplies, tents, and medical items to affected families in Pakistan.
US President Joe Biden on floods in Pakistan at the 77th UNGA’s session in New York, said much of Pakistan is under water and needs help. US has provided $53 million for flood-affected people in Pakistan, though the Chairman of its Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez told a gathering in New Jersey it was “like a drop in a bucket” while urging the administration in Washington to send more financial aid to Pakistan.
PM Shehbaz Sharif at UNGA drew attention to the injustice inherent in the crisis, with his country at “ground zero of climate change but responsible for less than one percent of carbon emissions. Sharif has asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to hold a donors’ conference quickly, meantime Guterres agreed to do so.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the floods have ravaged Pakistan and created a catastrophe of apocalyptical proportions. Bilawal said the country has become “ground zero” of global warming. Bilawal said Pakistan needs some $30 billion in aid.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also traveled to Pakistan’s flood-hit areas and asked G-20 nations to boost their national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and provide climate financing to developing nations to deal with such situations.
Pakistan alone cannot deal with the magnitude of floods. Pakistan’s economy is further aggravated by the floods. IMF, World Bank and lender countries must consider debt reduction, soft loans, and more financial backing.
International community must take steps to implement climate agreements limit carbon emissions and help uplift Pakistan’s economy, so the country could better cope with future climate change crisis. The developed nations need concrete actions to protect Pakistan from worst effects of climate change.
Imtiaz Ahmad, is an independent writer based in Peshawar, can be reached at [email protected]