Floods: Islamabad needs more than 10 billion dollars
Efforts stepped up on Tuesday to help tens of millions of Pakistanis affected by relentless monsoon rains since June that have submerged a third of the country and killed more than 1,100 people.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the floods were “the worst floods in Pakistan’s history” and estimated that at least $10 billion would be needed to repair the damage. ‘I solemnly promise that every penny (of international aid) will be spent transparently. Every penny will go to those in need,” he added.
According to the Minister of Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, ‘massive damage has been done to infrastructure, particularly in the telecommunications, roads, agriculture and livelihood sectors’.
These rains destroyed or seriously damaged more than a million homes and devastated large swaths of agricultural land essential to the economy.
Authorities and aid agencies are struggling to speed up the delivery of aid to the more than 33 million people – one in seven Pakistanis – affected by the floods, as the floods washed away many roads and bridges, completely isolating some regions.
In the south and west, there are hardly any dry places left. Displaced people pile up on main roads or high railway tracks to escape the floods.
In the northern mountainous areas, the authorities are still trying to reach isolated villages, which could further increase the death toll of 1,136 since the start of the monsoon in June.
The victims wander like ghosts along the rare dry areas in search of shelter, food and drinking water.
“For the love of God, help us,” pleaded Qadir, 35, who is now camping with his family near Sukkur (south), after walking for three days to get there. ‘There is nothing left in our house, we just managed to save our lives.’
‘A great ocean’
Pakistani officials attribute the devastating weather to climate change, saying their country is suffering the consequences of irresponsible environmental practices elsewhere in the world.
“To see the devastation on the ground is truly mind-boggling,” Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said Monday, referring to a “crisis of unimaginable proportions.”
“Literally a third of Pakistan is under water now,” more than during the 2010 floods, when 2,000 people were killed and nearly a fifth of the country was submerged by monsoon rains, she said. ‘It’s all just one big ocean, there’s no dry place to pump water from. It has become a crisis of unimaginable proportions.
The province of Sind (south) is an endless horizon of water and the country’s main river, the Indus, fed by countless streams from the north, threatens to burst its banks.
Pakistan received twice as much rainfall as usual, according to the meteorological service. In the southern provinces (Balochistan and Sind), the most affected, the rains were more than four times higher than the average of the last 30 years.
These floods come at the worst time for Pakistan, which had already requested international aid to help its economy in crisis. The government has declared a state of emergency and called on the international community to support it.
On Tuesday, he launched with the United Nations an urgent appeal for donations of 160 million dollars to finance an emergency plan for the next six months, initially intended to provide basic services (health, food, drinking water, shelter ) to the 5.2 million most affected people.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday gave its agreement to the resumption of a long-negotiated and essential financial support program for the country, and announced the release of an envelope of 1.1 billion dollars.
The United States announced Tuesday a first shipment of humanitarian aid, worth 30 million dollars. Cargo flights have started arriving from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
‘Pakistan is awash with suffering. The people of Pakistan are facing a monsoon on steroids – the relentless impact of levels of rain and flooding is unprecedented,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
His spokesman said Mr Guterres would visit the country next week in ‘solidarity’ with the victims.
Makeshift camps have sprung up everywhere – in schools, on highways, on military bases… – to accommodate the displaced.
In Nowshera, in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (north-west), a college has been transformed to accommodate some 2,500 people, who are struggling to find food and water.
“I never thought I would ever have to live like this,” said Malang Jan, 60, whose house was submerged in water. ‘We lost our paradise and now we are forced to live a life of misery.’
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