ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United Nations and Pakistan on Tuesday appealed for $160 million in emergency funding to help millions of people affected by record flooding that has killed more than 1,150 people since the mid-June.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres said flooding in Pakistan, caused by weeks of unprecedented monsoon rains, was a signal to the world to step up action on climate change.
“Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet through climate change,” he said in a video message at a ceremony in Islamabad calling for funding. “Today is Pakistan. Tomorrow it could be your country.
More than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis, have been affected by the catastrophic floods, which devastated a country already trying to revive a struggling economy. More than a million homes have been damaged or destroyed in the past two and a half months, displacing millions of people. About half a million displaced people live in organized camps, while others have had to find their own shelter.
According to the government’s first estimates, the devastation caused $10 billion in damage to the economy.
“This is a preliminary estimate that is likely to be much higher,” Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told The Associated Press. More than 160 bridges and more than 3,400 kilometers (2,100 miles) of road were damaged.
Although the rains stopped three days ago, large swathes of the country remain under water and the main rivers, the Indus and the Swat, are still swollen. The National Disaster Management Authority on Tuesday warned emergency services to be on high alert, saying floodwaters over the next 24 hours could cause further damage.
Rescuers continued to evacuate stranded people from flooded villages to safer ground. Makeshift tent camps have sprung up along the highways.
Meteorologists have warned of more rain in the coming weeks.
“The situation is likely to deteriorate further as heavy rains continue over areas already inundated by more than two months of storms and flooding. For us, this is nothing less than a national emergency,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Tuesday, urging the international community to donate generously to the UN appeal.
“Since mid-June, in fact, Pakistan has been in the throes of one of the most severe and totally abnormal cycles of torrential monsoons,” he said. Rainfall during this period was three times higher than average and up to six times higher in some areas, he said.
The UN’s flash appeal for $160 million will provide food, water, sanitation, healthcare and other assistance to some 5.2 million people, said Gutteres.
“The magnitude of the needs increases like the waters of the flood. This requires the world’s collective and priority attention,” he said.
A day earlier, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund approved the release of a much-awaited $1.17 billion for Pakistan.
The funds are part of a $6 billion bailout package agreed in 2019. The final tranche had been pending since earlier this year when the IMF expressed concern over Pakistan’s compliance with the terms of the loan. agreement under the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan was ousted by a vote of no confidence in parliament in April.
Pakistan risked default as its reserves dwindled and inflation soared, and to secure the IMF bailout the government had to agree to austerity measures.
The flood disaster, however, adds new burdens to the cash-strapped government. It also reflects how poorer countries often pay the price for climate change caused largely by more industrialized countries. Since 1959, Pakistan has been responsible for only 0.4% of historical global CO2 emissions. The United States is responsible for 21.5%, China for 16.5% and the EU for 15%.
Several scientists claim that the record floods have all the hallmarks of being affected by climate change.
“This year, Pakistan received the highest rainfall in at least three decades,” said Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and fellow of Pakistan’s Climate Change Council. “Extreme weather is becoming more common in the region and Pakistan is no exception.”
Pakistan experienced similar floods and devastation in 2010 that killed nearly 2,000 people. But the government has failed to implement plans to prevent future flooding by preventing construction and homes in flood-prone areas and riverbeds, Suleri said.
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this story from Geneva.
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