The United Nations and Pakistan launched an appeal on Tuesday for $160 million in emergency funding for nearly a half million displaced victims of record-breaking floods that have killed more than 1,150 people since mid-June.
Pakistani authorities backed by the military, rescuers and volunteers have been battling the aftermath of the floods that have affected more than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis.
Although rains stopped three days ago and flood waters in some areas were receding, large areas remain underwater. Rescuers were evacuating stranded people to safer ground, including makeshift tent camps have sprung up along highways, inundated villages and towns.
According to initial government estimates, the devastation caused $10 billion in damage to the economy. “It is a preliminary estimate likely to be far greater,” planning minister Ahsan Iqbal told The Associated Press.
His comment came hours before the United Nations and Pakistan were to launch an appeal in Islamabad for help.
A day earlier, the International Monetary Fund’s executive board approved the release of a much-awaited $1.17 billion for Pakistan.
Pakistan and the IMF originally signed a large bailout accord in 2019. But the release of a $1.17 billion tranche had been on hold since earlier this year, when the IMF expressed concern about Pakistan’s compliance with the deal’s terms under the government of former prime minister Imran Khan, who was ousted through a no-confidence vote in the parliament in April.
Last week, the United Nations in a statement said it has allocated $3 million for UN aid agencies and their partners in Pakistan to respond to the floods. This money will be used for health, nutrition, food security, as well as water and sanitation services in flood-affected areas, focusing on the most vulnerable.
On Monday, climate minister Sherry Rehman and meteorologists told the AP that new monsoons were expected in September. Monsoons have hit earlier and more heavily than usual since the start of summer, officials say — most recently with massive rains last week that affected nearly the entire country.
Pakistan is accustomed to monsoon rains and flooding, Rehman said, but not like this.
Several scientists say the record-breaking flooding in Pakistan has all the hallmarks of a catastrophe juiced by climate change.
“This year Pakistan has received the highest rainfall in at least three decades. So far this year the rain is running at more than 780% above average levels,” said Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and a member of Pakistan’s Climate Change Council. “Extreme weather patterns are turning more frequent in the region and Pakistan is not an exception.”
Pakistan saw similar flooding and devastation in 2010 that killed nearly 2,000 people. But the government didn’t implement plans to prevent future flooding by preventing construction and homes in flood prone areas and river beds, said Suleri of the country’s Climate Change Council.
Floods and monsoon rains have damaged one million houses and affected 33 million people.
It reflects how poorer countries often pay the price for climate change largely caused by more industrialized nations. Since 1959, Pakistan is responsible for only 0.4% of the world’s historic CO2 emissions. The US is responsible for 21.5%, China for 16.5% and the EU 15%.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority, at least 498,000 people in the country of 220 million are in relief camps after being displaced.
Many more displaced flood victims are believed to be living with relatives, friends or out in the open, without shelter.
Pakistan started receiving international aid this week, and more planes carrying aid from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates landed at an airport near Islamabad on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the military.
It said Chinese planes carrying aid will also arrive in Pakistan later Tuesday.
Pakistan has also deployed at least 6,500 soldiers to help authorities in rescue and relief operations.