Pakistan: Efforts step up to help flood victims


Efforts are stepping up on Tuesday to help the tens of millions of Pakistanis affected by the monsoon rains that have fallen relentlessly since June, which have submerged a third of the country and caused the death of more than 1100 people.

More than $10 billion will be needed to repair the damage and rebuild infrastructure damaged by the floods, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal told AFP on Tuesday.

"Massive damage has been caused to infrastructure, particularly in the telecommunications, roads, agriculture and livelihood sectors," he said.

These rains, "unprecedented for 30 years" according to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, destroyed or seriously damaged more than a million homes and devastated large swaths of agricultural land essential to the country's economy.

Authorities and aid agencies are struggling to speed up aid to the more than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis, affected by the floods.

The task is difficult, because the waves have washed away a number of roads and bridges, completely cutting off certain regions from the outside. In the south and west, there are hardly any dry places left and the displaced have to crowd onto main roads or high railway tracks to escape the flooded plains.

And 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.

“We don't even have a place to cook food. We need help,” Rimsha Bibi, a schoolgirl in Dera Ghazi Khan, central Pakistan, told AFP on Monday.

"A Great Ocean"

The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for the irrigation of plantations and the replenishment of water resources in the Indian subcontinent. But it also brings its share of drama and destruction each year.

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 told AFP on Monday, referring to a "crisis of unimaginable proportions".

“Literally a third of Pakistan is under water now, which exceeds any limit, any standard observed in the past”, even during the floods of 2010 when 2.000 people were killed and almost a fifth of the country submerged by the rains monsoon, she explained.

“When we send water pumps, they ask us where to pump from. Everything is just one big ocean, there is no dry place to pump water from. It has become a crisis of unimaginable proportions,” she added.

The province of Sind, in the south of the country, 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 (Baluchistan and Sind), the most affected, the rains were more than four times higher than the average of the last thirty years.

makeshift camps 

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.

The first planes bringing humanitarian aid arrived on Sunday from Turkey or the United Arab Emirates. Other countries, including Canada, Australia and Japan have also pledged to help.

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.

Staple food prices are skyrocketing and supply problems are already being felt in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab.

Makeshift camps have sprung up all over Pakistan - in schools, on highways, on military bases, among others - to accommodate those displaced by the weather.

In Nowshera, in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (north-west), a technical college has been transformed into a shelter for 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. »

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

Image: Shutterstock | Asianet-Pakistan

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Summary of news from December 1, 2023

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