THANKS to the efforts of the Government, especially the Foreign Office, there is greater awareness among the international community about the plight of people of Pakistan in the wake of floods and incessant rains as witnessed in New York on Tuesday.
Addressing the world leaders, who have gathered there physically for the first time after the outbreak of Covid-19, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a strong push for concrete support to Pakistan by warning them that the country was not only drowning in flood water but also in debt while Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged the international community to stay engaged with the country as it tries to tackle the calamity of huge magnitude.
In a related development, Pakistan and France agreed to identify ways and means to support efforts to tackle the challenge caused by the floods and Paris offered to host an international conference before the end of the year to help Islamabad rebuild in a climate-resilient manner.
This good start shows Pakistan has done the groundwork properly in a bid to mobilize the global community for assistance in the gigantic task of relief and rehabilitation.
The Foreign Office and Pakistan’s permanent mission at the United Nations deserve credit for a prompt visit of the UN Chief to the country, which afforded him an opportunity to see for himself the challenge posed by floods enabling him to speak on authority on the flood situation and the need for the world community to provide urgent and substantial aid to the country.
In his forceful address, the UN Secretary-General said he recently saw with his own eyes in Pakistan – where one-third of the country is submerged by a ‘monsoon on steroids’ and repeated the appeal he first made during his recent visit to Pakistan where he urged lenders to consider debt reduction to help those nations that were facing a possible economic collapse.
He proposed that creditors should consider debt reduction mechanisms such as debt-climate adaptation swaps, a proposition worth working on in close coordination with other countries.
The Prime Minister made a convincing case for the country during his interaction with world leaders on the occasion of a welcome reception hosted by the UN Secretary-General.
He had fruitful exchanges with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, held bilateral meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, President of Spain Pedro Sanchez Perez-Castejon, Chancellor of Austria Karl Nehammer and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi.
According to a joint statement, issued after PM Sharif’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the UNGA, the Premier apprised President Macron of the devastation caused by the climate-induced floods across Pakistan, expressed gratitude to France for sending timely assistance of tents, water pumps and a team of doctors and nurses, and hoped that the country would continue to contribute in the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase.
In a major development, the French President offered to host a conference to mobilize support for Pakistan and we hope effective liaison would be maintained with France for the purpose to make the proposed moot result-oriented.
The very fact that the world is speaking for Pakistan and is expressing willingness to provide necessary assistance on a short and a long-term basis is very encouraging and it now depends on the ability of Pakistan to present its case in a comprehensive and persuasive manner to get the required cooperation.
Apart from relief, rehabilitation of the affected families and reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure, Pakistan also needs assistance in coping with other consequences of the natural disaster like serious health issues and damage to the national economy.
As the world community was expressing solidarity with Pakistan, nine more people lost their lives on Tuesday in flood-hit areas with officials warning that they risked losing control of the spread of infections in a crisis that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) described as “beyond bleak”.
Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods are living in the open and as flood waters spread over hundreds of kilometres start to recede, which officials say may take two to six months, stagnant waters have led to diseases like malaria, dengue fever, skin and eye infections and acute diarrhoea.
The latest reports that the cotton production has shrunk by 19% due to the devastation caused by monsoon flooding and rains is also an indication of the economic losses, necessitating greater cooperation from the world community as Pakistan lacks resources to tackle the challenge on its own.