UN chief in Pakistan to boost international support for flood aid

By Pakistan Forward and AFP

Internally displaced Pakistanis wade through floodwaters after heavy monsoon rains in Jaffarabad district, Balochistan province, on September 8. [Fida Hussain/AFP]

Internally displaced Pakistanis wade through floodwaters after heavy monsoon rains in Jaffarabad district, Balochistan province, on September 8. [Fida Hussain/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- United Nations (UN) chief António Guterres began a two-day visit to flood-hit Pakistan Friday (September 9) that officials hope will boost global support for a humanitarian crisis affecting millions.

A third of the country is under water following record rains brought by what Guterres has described as "a monsoon on steroids".

Pakistani officials say it will cost at least $10 billion to rebuild and repair damaged infrastructure -- an impossible sum for the deeply indebted nation -- but the priority, for now, is food and shelter for millions made homeless.

"Everything is drowned, everything washed away," said Ayaz Ali, suffering from fever as he reluctantly took his place Thursday on a navy boat rescuing villagers from flooded rural communities in southern Sindh province.

In a tweet en route to Pakistan, Guterres said he wanted to "be with the people in their time of need, galvanize international support and bring global focus on the disastrous repercussions of climate change".

Pakistan receives heavy -- often destructive -- rains during its annual monsoon season, which are crucial for agriculture and water supplies.

But a downpour as intense as this year's has not been seen for decades, and officials blame climate change.

Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions but is eighth on a list compiled by the non-governmental organisation Germanwatch of countries deemed most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change.

Humanitarian aid flows in

A flood relief plan scaled by the Pakistani government and UN last month called for an immediate $160 million in international funding, and aid is already arriving.

On Thursday, a US Air Force C-17 landed -- the first American military planet to arrive in Pakistan for years -- bringing desperately needed tents and tarpaulins for temporary shelter.

Last week, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) deployed a team of disaster specialists in support of Pakistan's flood response efforts.

The US Department of Defence (DoD) is also conducting a military aid mission to Pakistan, the US armed forces' Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement September 2.

"CENTCOM is sending an assessment team to Islamabad to determine what potential support DoD can provide to USAID as part of the United States' assistance to the flooding crisis in Pakistan," spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said.

USAID on August 16 announced it was providing $100,000 in immediate assistance to support Pakistanis affected by severe flooding, and it pledged another $30 million in humanitarian assistance at the end of the month.

Death and destruction

Pakistan received five times more rain than normal in 2022, says the Pakistani meteorological office.

The effect of the heavy rains has been twofold -- flash floods in rivers in the mountainous north that washed away roads, bridges and buildings in minutes, and a slow accumulation of water in the southern plains that has submerged hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of land.

In Jaffarabad district of Balochistan Thursday, villagers were fleeing their homes on makeshift rafts made from upturned wooden "charpoy" beds.

Thousands of temporary campsites have mushroomed on slivers of dry land in the south and west -- often roads and railway tracks are the only high ground in a landscape of water.

With people and livestock cramped together, the camps are ripe for outbreaks of disease, with many cases of mosquito-borne dengue reported, as well as scabies.

The floods have killed nearly 1,400 people, according to the latest National Disaster Management Authority report.

Almost 7,000 km of roads have been damaged, some 246 bridges washed away, and more than 1.7 million homes and businesses destroyed.

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Whatever aid comes to Pakistan, most of it goes into the army's pockets. The international community that wants to help the flood victims should help the people directly. All the aid given through the government and the army will go into the officials' pockets.