UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday revealed that the ongoing flooding had cost Pakistan $30 billion, as he visited Pakistan to mobilise help for millions of people affected by devastating monsoon floods.
Nearly 1,400 people have died in flooding that covers a third of the country -- an area the size of the United Kingdom -- wiping out crops and destroying homes, businesses, roads and bridges.
Guterres said he hoped his visit would galvanise international help, noting Pakistan had always shown generosity towards others, hosting millions of refugees for decades from neighbouring Afghanistan at enormous cost.
The UN secretary general called the lack of global attention to climate change "insanity".
"This is insanity, this is collective suicide," Guterres told a news conference in the federal capital, lamenting the lack of attention the world gave to climate change -- particularly the industrialised nations that scientists blame.
He was speaking with the prime minister at the National Flood Response and Coordination Center where the UN chief was given a comprehensive briefing about the damages and rescue and relief efforts.
Pakistan is responsible for less than one per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but is eighth on a list compiled by the NGO Germanwatch of countries most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change.
Read UN preparing for worse to come in Pakistan floods
Guterres plans to tour flood-hit parts of the south on Saturday, and also visit Mohenjo Daro, a centuries-old UNESCO-designated world heritage site threatened by the deluge.
He urged the international community to extend “massive support” to a country that had little contribution to the emissions but bore the brunt of climate change.
As many as 33 million people were affected by the natural disaster, with people losing not just homes but their livelihood too.
The scale of the devastation seems to have surpassed the “super floods” of 2010 as at that time Pakistan suffered losses of close to $10 billion.
While the government’s revised estimate suggested the direct and indirect losses could be in the range of $20 billion, the UN Secretary-General at a news conference with Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif came up with a figure of a whopping $30 billion.
“I want to say a few words to the international community. Pakistan needs massive financial support to respond to this crisis that has cost, according to some estimates I have heard today, about $30 billion and counting,” the UN chief said at the press conference.
Guterres insisted that extending support to Pakistan would not just be expressing solidarity but doing justice to a country that was the frontline state of the negative fallout of climate change.
“Humanity has declared a war on nature and nature has struck back. But nature is blind it is not striking back on those who contributed more to the war on nature,” he said.
He said Pakistan had contributed little to climate change but Pakistan was one of the most dramatically impacted hotspots of the consequence of climate change.
“So it’s like nature has attacked the wrong one. It should be at those who are more responsible for climate change,” he said while referring to the countries contributing the most to climate change.
The UNSG said there was an obligation of the international community to support Pakistan massively in the present circumstances.
The UN chief is no stranger to Pakistan as he has had 17 years long association with the country. He was the UN High Commissioner for refugees at the time of the Afghan war. He acknowledged the enormous generosity shown by Pakistan to host 6 million Afghan refugees.
Read more Flood losses estimated up to $20 billion
“My voice and my services are entirely at the disposal of the government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan,” he said prompting the premier to acknowledge his strong words of support for Pakistan in this hour of need.
'Every penny to go to victims'
Thanking the UNSG, PM Shehbaz avowed that “every penny” for the flood victims would be spent transparently and go towards the suffering humanity.
The premier said that the federal and provincial governments and all stakeholders including the armed forces were working together to provide relief and rescue to 33 million affected people.
He said the rescue and relief efforts were in full gear and that people had been moved to safe places. He also thanked different countries and organisations for extending support to Pakistan.
He maintained that the nation would soon enter the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase and that Pakistan was doing its best with its meagre resources but would require sufficient support to repair the damaged infrastructure.
PM Shehbaz further stated that Pakistan's floods were a glaring manifestation of climate change and that it was high time to take notice of the situation.
The effect of the rains has been twofold -- flash floods in rivers in the mountainous north that washed away roads, bridges and buildings in minutes, and a slow accumulation of water in the southern plains that has submerged hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of land.
UNSG arrives in Pakistan
UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres arrived in Pakistan on Friday for a two-day visit to express solidarity with the government and people devastated by catastrophic floods in the country.
He was received by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar at the Islamabad International Airport.
Shortly after his arrival, the UNSG visited Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's residence where he was received by the premier, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other leaders.
Guterres and PM Shehbaz held a meeting at the Prime Minister's House.
During his visit, the UNSG will be visiting flood-affected areas in the country.
“I have arrived in Pakistan to express my deep solidarity with the Pakistani people after the devastating floods here,” said the secretary-general in a tweet.
"I appeal for massive support from the international community as Pakistan responds to this climate catastrophe," he added.
According to Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, the UNSG will also hold a joint press conference along with PM Shehbaz in the afternoon.
In a statement released a day earlier, the Foreign Office said that during the visit Guterres "will have meetings with the Pakistani leadership and senior officials to exchange views on the national and global response to this catastrophe caused by climate change".
He has also actively supported the $160 million UN “Flash Appeal” to fund Pakistan’s Flood Response Plan.
The visit by the senior UN diplomat is also expected to highlight the importance of sustained international support for Pakistan through the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase, and for building resilience against future climate shocks.
eve(With additional input from News Desk)
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