Islamabad: A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Pakistan due to continuing monsoon rains and heavy floods that showed no signs of slowing on Friday. After Sindh and Balochistan provinces, the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province declared an emergency till August 30 in the Swat district where swelling streams washed away houses and multi-storey buildings, including a popular riverside tourist hotel in Kalam.
Nearly 1,000 lost lives in floods
Pakistan’s government has declared a national emergency as devastating rains continue to batter most of Pakistan and have set off flash floods that have killed hundreds, washed away roads, destroyed homes and crops, and left many without food, electricity and internet. Millions are homeless while 937 people lost their lives and more than 1,340 have been injured in rains since mid-June, according to the latest National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) report. Those killed include 343 children and 198 women. The floodwaters have also damaged around 670,000 houses and about 793,995 livestock has been lost in the country, according to NDMA.
30 million affected
The rains and floods have affected approximately 30 million people or 15 per cent of Pakistan’s population in 116 districts, according to the government. Since June, at least 49,601 people have been rescued and about 215,997 are currently in relief camps. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) report on August 22 reported that the monsoon rains had affected some 3 million people in Pakistan of which 184,000 have been displaced to relief camps across the country.
Worst humanitarian disaster
Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman called the floods “the worst humanitarian disaster of this decade.” She said that “Pakistan is going through its eighth cycle of monsoon while normally the country has only three to four cycles of rain.” Rehman said that Sindh has received 784 per cent more rainfall while the province of Balochistan had received nearly 500 per cent more rain than average this season.
Food security, trade and travel impacted
Pakistani officials and food growers have also warned of a food crisis in the country after rains and floods destroyed several crops, including rice and cotton. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the crops spread over 2 million acres have been damaged in the province. The ongoing rains and floods have also cut off Balochistan from the rest of the country and disrupted travel routes and trade with Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, officials said. The train operations to and from the capital of Balochistan, Quetta, have been suspended due to infrastructure damage, a railways spokesperson said.
Pakistan seeks help for flood victims
On Friday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif briefed ambassadors and high commissioners of the diplomatic corps on the “scale of human tragedy” as well as challenges in coping with the climate catastrophe after appeal to the international community to help the flood victims. “The ongoing rain spell has caused devastation across the country. The losses, though yet to be documented, are comparable to the flash floods of 2010,” PM Sharif said on Twitter. “Grateful to the international community for their sympathies, condolences and pledges of support. Together we will build back better,” he added. The government is providing Rs1 million to the family of the deceased and from Rs200,000 to Rs500,000 for the rehabilitation and treatment of the injured for which the government requires over Rs80 billion, the prime minister said.
National aid for flood-affected people
Pakistan’s national and provincial disaster management authorities have distributed thousands of tents, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, food packs, first aid kits, and hundreds of sleeping bags and life-saving jackets, de-watering pumps. Pakistan Army officers and all members of the federal cabinet have announced that they will donate one month’s salary to the national flood relief fund. HANDS, one of the country’s largest non-profit organisations, said that their teams have disbursed over Rs216 million which they said has benefited over 600,000 flood-affected people in 21 districts.
International aid starts pouring in
The international community has pledged to provide $500 million to Pakistan to help flood victims.
• The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated US$ 3 million to UN agencies and partners in Pakistan to respond to the floods. This aid “will be used for health, nutrition, food security, and water and sanitation services in flood-affected areas, focusing on the most vulnerable”.
• Pakistan’s closest ally China has sent another batch of emergency humanitarian supplies including 25,000 tents for the flood-hit people. The Red Cross Society of China will provide US$300,000 in emergency cash assistance to the Pakistan Red Crescent Society. China earlier sent 4,000 tents, 50,000 blankets and 50,000 pieces of waterproof canvas, which have been delivered to the flood victims.
• The United States has announced a new $1 million grant in support of Pakistan’s efforts to address floods that have caused heavy loss of life and property across the country.
• The European Union (EU) is also providing €350,000 (PKR 76 million) to provide crucial humanitarian assistance to families affected by severe flooding. “The devastating floods have left a trail of destruction in Pakistan, causing many to suffer the loss of their homes, livelihoods and belongings,” said Taheeni Thammannagoda, who oversees EU humanitarian programmes in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia’s KSRelief sent 100 emergency relief trucks, carrying tons of food items that would benefit more than 70,000 people.