Floods in Pakistan: Looming humanitarian crisis | BY Dr Imran Khalid


Floods in Pakistan: Looming humanitarian crisis

I have never seen climate carnage on the scale of the floods here in Pakistan. As our planet continues to warm, all countries will increasingly suffer losses and damage from climate beyond their capacity to adapt.

This is a global crisis, it demands a global response, wrote UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in his tweet at the end of his two-day solidarity trip to Pakistan.

This tweet encompasses the whole situation. Indubitably, the recent visit by Mr. Guterres is expected to greatly help Pakistan in highlighting the devastating impact of the recent floods have had on the country.

The agony of the 33 million people in the fallout of the catastrophic floods, which have caused an estimated $30 billion worth of damages, cannot be explained in words.

The scale of colossal devastation is unimaginable and inexplicable. More than half a million more houses in Pakistan were reported damaged or destroyed in the past week, with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reporting more than 1.17 million damaged houses and nearly 566,000 destroyed houses as of 8 September.

The devastation is of Biblical proportions.The NDMA reports that some 33 million people have been affected by the heavy rains and gushing floods and has officially notified 81 districts as ‘calamity hit’ – 32 in Balochistan, 23 in Sindh, 17 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, six in Gilgit-Baltistan and three in Punjab.

Some 664,000 people are reportedly living in relief camps.Many more are reportedly living with host communities.

This data shows the numbers only and it does not explain the actual human tragedy that is being witnessed in each household affected by these massive floods and horrendous monsoon rains.

No estimate can capture even a fraction of human cost of the tragedy that continues to unfold in the affected parts of the country.

These unusual and unprecedented floods is a direct corollary of changing climate patterns due to greenhouse gases being emitted by the industrialized countries.

Against this backdrop, a sense of injustice is being seriously felt in the country.

Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global greenhouse gases that are raising the temperature of our planet, but its geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change.

Even Mr.Guterres has explicitly articulated his assessment that there is “no memory of anything similar to what has happened with the impact of climate change in Pakistan”.

Global warming is making air and sea temperatures rise, leading to more evaporation. Warmer air can hold more moisture, making monsoon rainfall more intense.

Scientists predict that the average rainfall in the summer monsoon season will increase due to climate change.

But Pakistan has something else making it susceptible to climate change effects – its immense glaciers.

With 7,253 known glaciers, highest outside the polar region, Pakistan has more glacial ice than anywhere on Earth – except for polar region, of course.

That’s why it is sometimes called as third pole. Those glaciers feed rivers that account for about 75 percent of the stored-water supply in the country of at least 220 million.

But the global warming has intensified the melting process of these glaciers, which has further aggravated the worst floods in Pakistan in this century.

The intense heat also melted glaciers in the northern mountainous regions, increasing the amount of water flowing into tributaries that eventually make their way into the Indus River.

So, Pakistan is suffering because of no fault of its own. The global warming is the main culprit that has brought about the devastation in the country.

The real challenge for Pakistan – and international community – is how to deal with this massive devastation and the looming humanitarian crisis.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is making very sincere effort to mobilize the international community to help Pakistan in tackling unforeseen catastrophe.

Pakistan and the United Nations have joined hands to launch “2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan” with an appeal for immediate need of $160 million for flood-hit people for providing them relief and rehabilitating them at the earliest, which is still very little compared to estimated damages of $30 billion.

Many countries and organizations are engaged in humanitarian assistance for the flood-hit people in Pakistan.

In addition to this, Pakistani people, known for philanthropy and generosity, are making all out efforts to provide relief goods to their brethren and sisters in flood-stricken areas.

Innumerable charitable organizations, philanthropist individuals as well as the defence forces are working together to provide relief goods to the affected people.

For a cash strapped country, these floods have created huge economic problems. Restructuring and rehabilitation of one third of Pakistan needs massive and generous support from the international community, which is still missing.

Yes, some countries have started sending relief goods, but that is too small to create any impact, they are minuscule in relation to the level of damages.

The volume of international support is very disappointing, factually speaking. Despite vehement and emotional appeals by Mr.Guterres, there is very little awareness about the quantum of the flood damages in Pakistan.

The international community needs to generously give debt relief and financial assistance to help Pakistan come out of this humanitarian and economic crisis quickly.

A gigantic uphill task lies ahead both for the Pakistan government and international community, as well as for the charitable organizations, philanthropists and Pakistan’s friends, for the rehabilitation of the flood-inflicted people.

There is a need for a holistic plan with a multi-pronged approach covering the thematic clusters of food security, agriculture, health, education, nutrition, shelter, sanitation and hygiene.

Mr.Guterres did not mince words while appealing for generous financial support for recovery and relief operations and for rehabilitation of the affected people and damaged infrastructure.

International community and the UN need to come forward with a tangible and sustainable solution to support Pakistan in these testing times.

Pakistan is a resilient nation, but it needs reassurance from the international community for the support and assistance to recuperate from this disaster quickly.

—The writer is political analyst, based in Islamabad.


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