Pakistan will need billions of dollars to recover from its worst-ever floods in history, further straining the country already dependent on foreign aid to prop up its economy and back its war against militants, the United Nations said on Sunday.
The government has struggled to cope with the scale of the disaster, which has killed at least 1,500 people, prompting the international community to help by donating tens of millions of dollars and providing relief supplies.
But the UN special envoy for the disaster, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said the need for foreign aid would be much greater going forward and could be difficult to procure given the ongoing financial crisis around the world.
The UN is still calculating specific figures, but Ripert said in an interview with The Associated Press that “the emergency phase will require hundreds of millions of dollars and the recovery and reconstruction part will require billions of dollars.”
Much of that money will be needed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the site of the worst damage from floods that first hit two weeks ago after extremely heavy monsoon rains. But as the floodwaters rushed south, they also brought death and destruction to Punjab and Sindh.
At least 1.4 million acres of crops were destroyed in Punjab, the breadbasket for the rest of the country, according to the UN. Many more crops were devastated in the northwest, where many residents were still trying to recover from intense battles between the Taliban and the army last year.
“The flooding has caused massive damage to crops and also to the limited stocks that people had at their houses,” said Amjad Jamal, spokesman for the World Food Programme, which has provided food to more than 265,000 people in the northwest.
“Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was a food insecure province even before the floods, and a lot of areas are such that people can’t afford even one meal a day,” said Jamal.
At least four million people will need food assistance across Pakistan for the next three months at a cost of nearly $100 million, said Jamal.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2010.