As the authorities scramble to cope up with the devastating floods from north to south in the country, the UN and Pakistan government on Tuesday jointly launched a “flash appeal” seeking the international community’s help for rescue and relief operations in the affected areas.
The “2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP)” was jointly launched by the Pakistan government and UN, simultaneously in Islamabad and Geneva.
The FRP is being launched in the backdrop of devastating rains, floods and landslides that have impacted more than 33 million people in different parts of Pakistan.
Over 1,100 people including over 350 children have lost their lives, and more than 1,600 people have been injured.
More than 287,000 houses have been fully and 662,000 partially destroyed and over 735,000 livestock animals have perished. Around two million acres of crops have been adversely impacted and communications infrastructure severely damaged.
“The FRP focuses on the needs of 5.2 million people, with life-saving response activities amounting to US$ 160.3 million covering food security, assistance for agriculture and livestock, shelter and non-food items, nutrition programmes, primary health services, protection, water and sanitation, women’s health, and education support, as well as shelter for displaced people,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office.
The flash appeal is only meant for rescue and relief operations.
The cost of reconstruction is far much higher.
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said initial assessment suggested Pakistan needed $10 billion to rebuild and repair the infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the unprecedented floods.
The FRP highlights the main humanitarian needs, efforts and steps taken by the government to handle these challenges in collaboration with the UN and other partners, and sets out a well-coordinated and inclusive plan of action to respond to the needs of the affected people.
“The FRP is holistic, with a multi-sectoral approach covering the thematic clusters of food security and agriculture, health, nutrition, education, protection, shelter and non-food items, water, sanitation and hygiene,” the FO statement added.
Moreover, Pakistan continues to host more than three million Afghans with generosity and compassion, and like previous occasions, at least 421,000 refugees are living in flood-affected areas included in the FRP.
Speaking at a news conference held at the foreign affairs ministry, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the government’s efforts were being supported by the Pakistani nation with people, civil society and humanitarian organisations stepping forward in a big way to complement the relief work with "our characteristic generosity and philanthropic spirit”.
The foreign minister, who is also the PPP chairman, recalled that the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2022 had also been established to facilitate people all over the country and overseas to contribute to the flood relief efforts.
“This Appeal is expected to address only a part of the overall requirements and will, therefore, complement the broader effort,” he added.
The minister underscored that the international community’s “full support and solidarity with the people of Pakistan at this time would go a long way in alleviating their suffering and in helping to rebuild their lives and communities.
He said Pakistan, during this monsoon season, received three times of the usual rainfall that resulted in floods, affecting 23 districts of Sindh and 30 districts of Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and southern Punjab.
The foreign minister mentioned that there was a shortage of tents and food items to meet the demands of the flood-affected people and vowed to ensure transparency in disbursement of relief supply items.
He said drainage of water was a major challenge in the low-lying areas inundated with flood water, adding that evacuations were being made despite limited resources.
Bilawal expressed his gratitude to the UN and its agencies in coordinating with the Pakistani government in carrying out relief activities in the flood-affected areas.
To a question regarding the capacity to deal with the challenge, he said joint efforts at federal, provincial and international agencies' levels would overcome the problem.
Asked about lack of coordination among federal and provincial governments, Bilawal mentioned the efficacy of the data availability under the Benazir Income Support System that helped in carrying out the relief activities.
The foreign minister said it was not the time of playing politics over the matter of floods.
However, he pointed out that the flood-hit people in K-P awaited repatriation, while the provincial government remained busy in catering to the helicopter flight of their leader, PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan.
He said the problem of the current floods had compounded the issues pertaining to national economy that already faced the pressure of inflation.
Bilawal expressed confidence that the coalition government, despite immense challenges, would effectively deal with them.
He said the UN's humanitarian response facilities would complement Pakistan's national capacity to deal with the challenge.
In his video message, UN Secretary General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres shared that the people of Pakistan were facing the unrelenting impact of heavy rains and flooding – worst in decades.
The UNSG added that the Pakistani government’s response had been swift.
“It [the government] has released national funds, including in the form of immediate cash relief. But the scale of needs is rising like the flood waters. It requires the world’s collective and prioritised attention,” he remarked.
“Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it is Pakistan. Tomorrow it could be your country,” he cautioned.
The UNSG will travel to the country next week for a solidarity visit.
He is expected to arrive in Islamabad on September 9. He will then travel to the areas most impacted by this unprecedented climate catastrophe.
The UNSG will meet with displaced families and also witness how the government was working, in collaboration with its humanitarian partners, to support its relief efforts and provide assistance to millions of people.
He is expected back in New York on September 11.
The planning minister highlighted that Pakistan being a negligible contributor to the overall carbon footprint, was still among the top 10 countries that were vulnerable to climate change.
“With extreme weather events which we have experienced from earlier this year like the heat waves, forest fires, multiple glacial lake outburst floods and now [we have to cope with] these disastrous monsoon floods,” he added.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Julien Harneis, who was a accompanying Bilawal at the news conference, said: “This super flood is driven by climate change - the causes are international and so the response calls for international solidarity.” He further added: “Across Pakistan, I have seen government workers, ordinary people, out in the rain and water, saving lives and giving the little they have to those who have lost everything. We, in the international community, need to step up and stand with the people of Pakistan. This appeal is the absolute minimum we need from the international community for life saving assistance and services. The people of Pakistan deserve our support.”
He said the UN had initiated collaboration with the local authorities, including the dispensation of supplies amounting to $3 billion for water and livestock vaccination in Lasbela, Balochistan.
The UN official said he had held meetings with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chief and officials of foreign affairs ministry. He pledged that the UN would respond if more assistance was needed.
He said experts of the World Food Programme would be visiting the flood-hit area on Wednesday (today) to assess the requirements on-ground.
On climate change, he said Pakistan's voice had not been efficiently heard and further steps needed to be taken with regard to management of the river system.
NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Akhtar Nawaz gave a detailed briefing on the current humanitarian situation and efforts of the government, supported by humanitarian partners in carrying out rescue and relief operations.
Xavier Castellanos Mosquera, the under-secretary general for the National Society Development and Operations Coordination, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said his organisation was committed to assisting the affected communities in these unprecedented floods in Pakistan.
“Together with the Pakistan Red Crescent, we have launched an initial emergency appeal though which we are seeking funds to assist 324,000 people in health, safe drinking water, emergency shelter, and livelihoods,” he added.
He further said the IFRC was working together with the Pakistan government and UN agencies to have a coordinated response to ensure “we reach the most vulnerable and affected populations, providing access to basic necessities to all”.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees shared that: “Today, the international community – including my own agency – must help the people in need in Pakistan. We urgently need global support and solidarity for Pakistan.”
The Foreign Office noted that Pakistan was a country with experience and capacity in responding to humanitarian emergencies and has made major strides in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, the scale and magnitude of the current floods was unprecedented, whereby, the country received rainfall equivalent to 2.9 times the national 30-year average – a grave manifestation of climate change-induced disasters, it added.
“It is important that the international community shows solidarity with Pakistan and complements its national efforts in combating the direct and inter-related impacts of the current floods, the FO statement read.
Soon after the launch of flash appeal, Washington, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), announced an additional $30 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance to support people and communities affected by severe flooding in Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s government has declared the floods a national emergency, with 66 districts declared to be ‘calamity hit’,” a statement issued by the US Embassy read.
“The US is deeply saddened by the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes throughout Pakistan. In response to the Pakistani government’s request for assistance, the US will prioritise urgently needed food support, safe water, sanitation and hygiene improvements, financial help, and shelter assistance,” it further added.
This support, the statement said, would save lives and reduce suffering among the most vulnerable affected communities.
The US will continue to monitor the crisis in close coordination with local partners and Pakistani authorities.
A USAID disaster management specialist arrived in Pakistan on August 29 to assess the impact of the floods and intensify coordination with partners on response efforts.
“The US remains steadfast in its support for affected communities throughout Pakistan. In addition to the $30 million in urgently needed humanitarian assistance announced today, the US also provided over $1.1 million in grants and project support earlier this month to ensure direct assistance reaches those communities most impacted and to help mitigate and prevent the effects of future floods,” the statement added.
(With input from agencies)
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