Sunday December 10, 2023

UN chief appeals to wealthy countries: ‘Not to lose one moment’ for aiding Pakistan’s flood victims

What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates sheer inadequacy of global response to climate crisis, says UN chief

By News Desk & Our Correspondent
September 16, 2022
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. — AFP/file
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. — AFP/file

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan needs a “massive inflow of financial resources” to help it cope with the devastation caused by the climate-induced floods, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday, as he appealed to wealthy countries “not to lose one moment” in coming to the aid of the country, reported local media.

“What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and betrayal and injustice at the heart of it,” he told his annual pre-General Assembly press conference.

The 193-member Assembly’s high-level debate in which many world leaders, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, are scheduled to participate, will begin on September 20. The UN chief, who opened his remarks with his solidarity visit to Pakistan, said the scale of destruction was unimaginable, he had never seen. Guterres, who is from Portugal, noted that the flooding covers an area three times the size of his homeland.

The UN was fully mobilised to support Pakistan, said Guterrers, adding, “Pakistan needs a massive inflow of financial resources and my appeal to international financial institutions and to countries that have financial capacity is not to lose one moment in providing Pakistan with the financial resources that are necessary for the gigantic tasks that are front of us.”

In typically uncompromising language, he lambasted the global response to the climate crisis as inadequate, unjust and, at its heart, a betrayal. “Whether it’s Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, small islands or Least Developed Countries, the world’s most vulnerable – who did nothing to cause this crisis – are paying a horrific price for decades of intransigence by big emitters,” he added.

Targeting the leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations, the UN chief reminded them that they are responsible for the vast majority of carbon emissions and, even though they are also heavily impacted by record droughts, fires and floods, climate action in response, appears to be on life-support.

He wondered aloud if the reaction would be different if one third of G20 countries, rather than Pakistan, were currently underwater. All countries need to cut emissions every year – with the G20, as the leading emitters, leading the way, Guterres said – until the global temperature rise is limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Returning to the example of Pakistan, Guterres insisted that the country, and other climate hotspots, need flood-resilient infrastructure now, arguing that at least half of all climate finance, must go to adaptation and climate resilience. That funding, he said, must come from the leading economies. “Lower the temperature — now”, he said. “Don’t flood the world today; don’t drown it tomorrow.”

The heavy rains and flash floods across the country have claimed nearly 1,500 lives, including 530 children, while the monetary losses in terms of damage of infrastructure, houses, transport, crops and livestock have crossed over Rs70 trillion ($30billion).

As per statistics given by the National Disaster Management Authority, the tally of dead stands at 1,486, about 530 children among them. Over the last few weeks, authorities have thrown up barriers to keep the flood waters out of key structures such as power stations as well as homes, while farmers who stayed to try and save their cattle faced a new threat as fodder began to run out.

The woos of flood victims have multiplied further as the unhygienic conditions have given rise to infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, skin infection, eye infection, asthma, typhoid, malaria and hepatitis. During the last 24 hours, around 89,000 infectious diseases cases, most of them from Sindh, were reported in the flood-hit areas. Of them, 15,056 cases were of diarrhea, 16,279 cases of skin infections, 19,080 cases of asthma, 989 cases of eye infections, 354 cases of typhoid and 1,054 cases of hepatitis.

Meanwhile, responding to the joint flash appeal of Pakistan and the United Nations, Germany pledged to donate additional 10 million euros for the rehabilitation of the flood-victims. Taking to his twitter handle, German ambassador to Pakistan Alfred Grannas wrote: “I am glad to share that Germany is able to provide an additional 10 million euros to help Pakistan deal with the devastating effects of recent flooding.” He added that Germany would continue to stand by Pakistan during the tragic time.

In addition, relief goods sent by Sin Chew Foundation and Buddha’s Light International Association Malaysia also reached Pakistan for flood victims. The assistance came via flight landed at Islamabad International Airport, which was received by Deputy Head of Mission Malaysia Deddy Faisal along with the representatives from foreign office and NDMA.

The relief assistance included tents, milk powder, blankets, water filter and clothing. The water level has started receding at water reservoirs, including Manchhar Lake and Indus River at Kotri Barrage. According to the irrigation department, the water level has gone down to two feet from the capacity level of RL 123 to RL 121 at Manchhar Lake -- the largest lake of Pakistan.

Besides, the water inflow in the river at Kotri Barrage has also dropped to 452,300 cusecs, while the outflow hovers at 428,900 cusecs, per the data shared by the Flood Forecasting Divison.

Meanwhile, Surgeon General Pakistan Army Lt General Nigar Johar visited the flood-hit areas of Sindh and Balochistan provinces and instructed doctors to vaccinate people infected with cholera and typhoid. She visited various field medical campuses in Dadu, Chur, Badin and Hyderabad districts and met the army paramedics and doctors.

She directed to ensure the availability of food for children and especially infants and pregnant women as newborn babies and women were badly affected by the floods. Meanwhile, the meeting of the National Flood Response Coordination Centre was informed that there was no shortage of essential food items such as wheat, rice, maize and potato.

Federal Secretary for National Food Security presented a detail update regarding wheat stocks in the country and ensured that no shortage of wheat, rice, maize, and sugar is expected in future as sufficient stocks are already available in country. He debunked the reports about shortage of essential food items in the country and termed them false and baseless. He explained the country’s annual wheat requirement stands at 30.5 million tonnes whereas it holds two million tonnes strategic reserve. At present, 7.07 million tonnes, including 2 million tonnes, for seeds are available in country, which is 153 days of stock. The import of tomatoes and onions on fast track is underway.