According to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Pakistan is currently facing a “monsoon on steroids,” which caused severe flooding in roughly one third of the country, leading to over 1,100 deaths since June, as roads, homes, bridges, and crops have been washed away across the country. Blaming “the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” Mr. Guterres urged the world to come to Pakistan’s aid, as he launched a $160m appeal to help provide 5.2 million people with food, water, sanitation, emergency education, and health support.
While the monsoon season has usually been welcomed by Pakistan citizens for providing much-needed rain for their crops, the massive rainfalls this year have led to a humanitarian catastrophe, comparable to the devastating floods from 2010 – the deadliest in the country’s history – which killed over 2,000 people.
Although Pakistan produces less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it consistently ranks in the top ten countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising temperatures caused by global warming are the main factors that make extreme precipitation contributing to flooding more likely. As Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman put it, the current situation in the country is a “climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.”
Vast areas of rich agricultural land have been devastated during this year’s floods, damaging food supplies and sending prices soaring in a nation already suffering from a deep economic crisis. According to Pakistan’s planning minister Ahsan Iqbal, floods have caused at least $10bn of damage, pushing a large number of people on the brink of starvation.
Moreover, thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate towns and villages where roads and bridges have been swept away, but even with the help of helicopters, authorities are still desperately struggling to reach many of those who are still trapped. “Village after village has been wiped out. Millions of houses have been destroyed,” said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Besides UN’s funding, aid has started to arrive from other countries and organizations too. The United Arab Emirates and Turkey have delivered tents and medicines, the International Monetary Fund has approved a $1.2bn loan for the country, and the US and Britain have also pledged their support.
According to Mr. Guterres, South Asia is a “climate crisis hotspot” where people are 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts than in other regions of the world. “Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change,” he urged. “Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.”
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer