By Saniaa Ambardekar
Pakistan has endured extreme rainfalls since mid-June this year with about 3 times more rain than in the last 30 years. This has impacted 33 million people and over 1400 people have lost their lives. According to Pakistan’s climate minister Sherry Rehman, the floods have submerged a third of the country underwater and the damages are likely to cost $12.5 billion. Nearly, 460 of the 1400 that have been killed by the flooding were children. Additionally, 3.6 million acres of crops have been destroyed and 800000 livestock have died which has increased food insecurity and severely impacted Pakistan’s economy. The damage has been inflicted on 1.5 million homes which have caused the displacement of several families and forced them to live in tough conditions.
Furthermore, the risk of contracting diseases is significantly higher which could lead to more deaths due to the lack of access to healthcare and sanitation. In one province alone, there were 90000 cases of diarrhea in a single day in addition to skin and eye infections as well as waterborne diseases. To make things worse, the floods have caused the destruction of hundreds of healthcare facilities and caused a scarcity of healthcare supplies and clean water. The flooding has also brought devastation to neighbouring countries like Afghanistan which was still recovering from a massive earthquake in June.
Moreover, women and young girls are the most vulnerable during any humanitarian crisis and Pakistan is no different. Women are at more risk of violence and abuse than ever as they are forced to sleep in camps or makeshift shelters. Currently, over half a million pregnant women are in flood-affected regions and 73000 are expected to give birth within the next month. Women and young girls also have no access to menstrual hygiene products in these difficult times. However, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has set up emergency medical camps across flood-impacted regions to provide medical care to vulnerable populations. There are also a lot of Afghan refugees living in Pakistani regions that are affected by the flood. Therefore, the IRC is sending not only medical help but also food supplies, hygiene kits as well as basic household items. The IRC has also faced issues while sending aid due to the flooded roads in the most heavily impacted regions.
Climate change and global warming have caused severe droughts and floods in Pakistan over the years. It has borne the brunt of climate change despite producing less than 1% of the world’s carbon emissions. Pakistan also has more glaciers than any other country so the melting of glaciers due to global warming is also a major contributor to the flood. ‘A Monsoon on Steroids’ is what this catastrophe is being called. Experts say that Pakistan has no disaster-resilient infrastructure so people literally had to fend for themselves as there was no exit for the huge amounts of rainwater.
International aid has also been provided to Pakistan as the death toll continues to rise. So far Pakistan has received aid from China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the UAE. Flights from UAE and Uzbekistan were the first to arrive in Islamabad with fresh supplies. The US also announced that they would be providing $30 million in aid for flood victims. India announced an additional $25 million in assistance for Pakistan flood relief. Pakistan is also trying to build more dams, place flood detection systems and improve drainage systems in order to improve the disturbing situation of the country. Digitalisation and social media have been effective ways of raising money for flood-hit Pakistanis.
Influential actors and political leaders have tried to spread awareness and get people to donate money as aid for Pakistan and evacuations are underway. NGOs, political parties and the Medical Air Service have started evacuating groups of people from heavily impacted areas. These evacuations are often only possible by air due to the damage to the roads in remote areas. Pakistan is going to have to deal with this harrowing situation for years to come but through immense support and assistance from around the world, hopefully the country will return to normalcy soon.