Villagers flee their homes on overturned wooden beds in the Jaffarabad district of Balochistan on Thursday – Copyright AFP Fida HUSSAIN
Sajjad Tarakzai with Emma Clarke and Ahsraf Khan at Sukkur
On Friday, United Nations chief António Guterres began a two-day visit to flood-stricken Pakistan that officials hope will bolster global support for a humanitarian crisis affecting millions.
A third of the country is under water – an area the size of the United Kingdom – after record rains caused by what Guterres called a “monsoon on steroids”.
Pakistani officials say it will take at least $10 billion to rebuild and repair damaged infrastructure – an impossible amount for a heavily indebted country – but the priority for now is food and shelter for the millions of people left homeless.
“Everything has sunk, everything has been washed away,” Ayaz Ali, who is suffering from a fever, said as he reluctantly took his seat on a military boat rescuing villagers from flooded rural communities in southern Sindh province on Thursday.
In a tweet en route to Pakistan, Guterres said he wanted to “be with the people in times of need, galvanize international support, and draw global attention to the catastrophic effects of climate change.”
Pakistan receives abundant – often destructive – rain during its annual rainy season, which is critical for agriculture and water supply.
But a downpour like this year’s has not been seen in decades, and Pakistani officials blame it on climate change, which is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events around the world.
Pakistan accounts for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but ranks eighth on the list of countries compiled by the non-governmental organization Germanwatch, considered the most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change.
– Tents and tarps required –
The flood relief plan, drawn up by the Pakistani government and the UN last month, requires $160 million in international funding immediately, and aid is already on the way.
A US Air Force C-17 – the first US military aircraft in Pakistan in years – landed on Thursday, delivering badly needed tents and tarps for temporary shelter.
Although Washington is a key supplier of military hardware to Islamabad, relations between the two have been tense over conflicts of interest in neighboring Afghanistan, especially since the Taliban returned to power there last August.
The Met Office says Pakistan received five times more rain than usual in 2022 – Padidan, a small town in Sindh, has been flooded with more than 1.8 meters (70 inches) since the start of the rainy season in June.
The effects of heavy rains were twofold: flash floods in the rivers of the mountainous north, washing away roads, bridges and buildings in a matter of minutes, and slow accumulation of water in the southern plains, inundating hundreds of thousands of square kilometers (miles). ) land.
In the Jafarabad district of Balochistan, villagers left their homes on Thursday on makeshift rafts made from upturned wooden beds.
Thousands of makeshift campsites have mushroomed on the shards of land to the south and west—often roads and railroad tracks are the only elevations in the waterscape.
As people and livestock crowd together, the camps are ripe for disease outbreaks, with many cases of mosquito-borne dengue and scabies reported.
The floods have claimed the lives of nearly 1,400 people, according to the latest report from the National Disaster Management Authority.
About 7,000 km of roads were damaged, about 246 bridges were washed away and more than 1.7 million homes and businesses were destroyed.