How Pakistan can recover from deadly flooding

More than 33m people in the debt-ridden country have been affected by ‘monsoon on steroids’

A flood in Daddu district southern Sindh province, Pakistan
Flooding in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh
(Image credit: (Farhan Khan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images))

The death toll from unprecedented floods across more than a third of Pakistan has risen to at least 1,343, the country’s National Disaster Management Agency reported today.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has blamed climate change for the “monsoon on steroids”, which has affected more than 33m Pakistanis – one in seven people in the South Asian nation’s total population. Millions are homeless as a result of “raging flood waters” that have also “swept away 700,000 head of livestock and damaged more than 3.6m acres of crops”, the BBC reported.

Did climate change trigger the flooding?

Unprecedented heatwaves and lengthy droughts earlier this year in Pakistan have been followed by more than two months of record-breaking levels of rainfall.

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According to ABC News, “research shows the annual monsoons are getting wetter and more dangerous because of climate change”.

“Global warming means that water evaporates much faster out at sea,” wrote climate reporter Manuela Andreoni in The New York Times. “And a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. So monsoons risk bringing way too much rain.”

Not everyone agrees that climate change is to blame for the Pakistan floods. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has linked “more frequent and intense” rainfall in many parts of the world to greenhouse gas emissions. But the intergovernmental body’s most recent report stated that it had only “low confidence” in how much climate change was to blame for increased heavy rains in South Asia.

In Pakistan, there is less doubt. “Rich countries” caused the “catastrophic” flooding, said Pakistani senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar in an article for The Guardian. The floods “are one of the early signs” of the “climate catastrophe”, he wrote.

What much flood aid are Pakistanis getting?

Pakistan’s leaders have established a National Flood Response and Coordination Centre to distribute aid.

The army has established 147 relief camps sheltering and feeding more than 50,000 displaced people, and 250 medical camps have been set up.

But a charity boss told The Guardian that the Pakistani government and NGOs had collectively managed to reach just 10% or less of affected people. “People who survived the floods may die of starvation,” warned Faisal Edhi, head of the Edhi Foundation, the nation’s largest charity.

Ministers have insisted that the government is doing everything possible to help flooded communities, but have warned that the country cannot recover without international support.

Planes loaded with relief goods have arrived from countries including Turkey, the UAE, China, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Turkmenistan.

The UK government has pledged £15m to “help provide shelter and essential supplies” to people across Pakistan.

The US announced $30m worth of aid for the flood victims last week, while the World Health Organization is providing $10m to treat the injured, deliver supplies to health facilities and curb the spread of infectious diseases.

And the UN has announced a $160m emergency plan intended to help “5.2m of the most vulnerable people in the country”. The key aims are to provide lifesaving services such as health services, food, clean water and shelter; prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases; and ensure that people can access aid and protection, such as family tracing.

How can Pakistan recover?

To aid long-term recovery, other countries could “cancel Pakistan’s public foreign debt” so “that money could be used for relief efforts and go directly towards those affected”, said the Organization for World Peace.

“Countries that have large carbon footprints and release a lot of emissions should be inclined to forgive these debts, considering how little Pakistan contributes to climate change,” the body argued, adding that “the money could be required to go towards projects that will reduce the impact of future floods”.

Whatever international support is offered, Pakistan’s recovery is expected to take quite some time. The country’s economic managers “have the most challenging task ahead as floods ravaged the country’s road and communication network” and “damaged an incalculable number of houses”, as well as destroying “millions of hectares of crops”, said Al Jazeera.

Pakistan will “struggle to recover”, agreed Bloomberg’s David Fickling. Although a promised $1.16bn loan from the International Monetary Fund “might help unlock enough cash to get the country through the next couple of years”, the “floods themselves have caused more than $10bn of damage, much of which will end up boosting the country’s $255bn in debt”.

And rich nations are “unlikely to donate the grant funds necessary to insulate one of the world’s poorest countries against the impact of rising global temperatures”, Fickling predicted.

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