Running on empty

November 20, 2022

The humanitarian aid received in 2022 is barely 9.3 percent of the support received in 2010

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aving suffered an unprecedented climate catastrophe, Pakistan is emptying its coffers and gathering every coin to help those affected by the disaster. Since the beginning of this century, Pakistan has faced two major natural disasters i.e. the earthquake of 2005 and riverine floods of 2010. On both occasions, the humanitarian response from the international community was generous. This helped Pakistan recover from the egregious impact of these natural disasters. Although the loss of life and property was enormous, the humanitarian response was swift and comprehensive.

This year, torrential rains and flash floods wreaked havoc on lives and property in all four provinces. Sindh and Balochistan were the worst hit. A large number of people there are still waiting for dewatering and support to recover from the initial shock of the disaster. At the end of August 2022, the United Nations appealed for a $160 million emergency relief plan, aiming to reach 5.2 million of the most vulnerable people in Pakistan. “Pakistan is awash in suffering,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message launching the six-month long appeal for humanitarian assistance in Islamabad and Geneva. Subsequently, a detailed post-disaster need assessment (PDNA) was commissioned by the government. The PDNA was conducted with the support of the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, and United Nations agencies, with facilitation from the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.

The PDNA estimated the total damage at Rs 3.2 trillion ($14.9 billion), the loss at Rs 3.3 trillion ($15.2 billion) and needs at Rs 3.5 trillion ($16.3 billion). The sectors that suffered the most damage were housing at Rs 1.2 trillion ($5.6 billion); agriculture, food, livestock, and fisheries at Rs 800 billion ($3.7 billion); and transport and communications at Rs 701 billion ($3.3 billion). The transport and communications sector has the highest reconstruction and recovery needs at Rs 1.1 trillion ($5 billion); followed by agriculture, food, livestock and fisheries at R 854 billion ($4 billion), and housing at PKR 592 billion ($2.8 billion). Sindh appeared to be the worst affected province, suffering 60 percent of the damage and 75 percent of the losses.

Consequent to the PDNA exercise, a revised 2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan was launched by the government and the United Nations in Geneva. The revised appeal urgently sought $816 million to respond to the growing needs of the flood affected for life saving emergency relief – a jump of $656 million from the initial appeal of $160 million. The appeal was only meant to cover the most urgent survival needs of 9.5 million people.

The damage is estimated at $14.9 billion and reconstruction needs at $16.3 billion. Till mid-November Pakistan had received only $171.5 million against an urgent appeal for $816 million. Adding $126 million received outside this appeal the amount collected comes to a meagre $297 million.

Misery is piling up with every passing day yet the pace of the humanitarian response has been painfully slow. According to the Fund Tracking System of the UNOCA, till mid-November Pakistan had received only $171.5 million against the flash appeal of $816 million. It is only 21 percent of the appealed amount, leaving a daunting unmet gap in funding amounting to $644 million. Adding $126 million received outside this appeal the amount received comes to $297 million. The sum received in 2022 is only 9 percent of the support received in 2010.

The losses and damages data show that the 2022 flood has been far more devastating. This year 33 million people have been affected compared to the 20 million affected in 2010. Total estimated losses this year stand at $30 billion, three times more than the damages incurred in 2010. The loss of crops over 8.8 million acres is almost twice that of what was lost in 2010. 2.2 million houses were damaged this year, whereas 1.1 million houses were damaged in 2010. With statistical data demonstrating the staggering unprecedented losses, why is the flow of aid so dismal this time around?

The Ukraine war and conflicts in South-Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are being cited as reasons for an over exerted international donor purse. Geo-strategic shifts in the region also play an important role in changing donor priorities. In 2010, Pakistan was right next to the Afghan battlefield and a conduit for supplies to the US and NATO forces, Now that some of the dust in Afghanistan has settled, Pakistan has lost its significance to the Western powers.

Victims of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis deserve greater consideration from the international community. Pakistan’s economy is already hard pressed under a mountain of debt. Preliminary estimates of the PDNA suggest that the national poverty rate will increase by 3.7 to 4.0 percent this year, pushing between 8.4 and 9.1 million people into poverty. The socio-economic situation of Pakistan is fast approaching a tipping point. Socio-political ramifications will be awful if this apathy is not shunned and millions of people are not rehabilitated through a well-designed and timely rehabilitation effort. The urgency of the situation calls for an accelerated pace of humanitarian assistance to Pakistan.


The writer is a development sector professional and can be reached at nmemon2004yahoo.com



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