Pakistan is currently in the depths of a humanitarian disaster.
Its routine yearly monsoon season, which is typically welcomed by farmers as a lifeline to crops and seen as a relief by citizens from the scorching summer, is now bringing extreme catastrophe and adversity to the country.
With one-third of the country underwater, the monsoon rains have escalated into large-scale floods and landslides, bringing the death toll to more than 1,282 since June. The displacement and disruption it caused have rippled to a nationwide scale, affecting about 33 million people; of which 3.4 million are children in grave need of immediate medical assistance due to increased risk of diarrhea, water-borne diseases, skin and respiratory illnesses, and half a million are people in displacement camps.
The floods have caused the country’s life to halt—more than 1 million homes, 2 million acres of crops, 17,566 schools, 3,000 miles of roads, and 900 health facilities are now destroyed or damaged, showing how this humanitarian crisis is multifaceted and all-pervasive in its impact.
One of the worst flooding events of this century and unprecedented in Pakistan, these floods are only another manifestation of climate change. The monsoon season that brings rain from the southwest winds in the summer has been exacerbated by faster rates of evaporation at sea and added moisture. As a result, it is bringing Pakistan a rate of rainfall that is nearly 3 times the national average of the last 30 years. Glacier melting routes during the summer are well connected to Pakistani rivers, and have therefore contributed to flash floods in villages.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s government was ill-equipped to deal with such large-scale flooding, because of its constant political turmoil, poor economic growth and inflation control.
Pakistan’s latest flooding disaster will be felt in decades to come and arguably puts the country’s economy into turmoil. Agriculture—the sector that employs 40% of workers in the country—is unfortunately the one that will suffer direct consequences from floods. Inflation, already at a 47-year high before the flooding, is now likely to be afflicted with upwards pressure from the raging food crisis, adding to the vulnerability of Pakistan.
A $1.1 billion loan has subsequently been secured from the International Monetary Fund to assist the country in reviving and recovering from this deleterious natural disaster. As the crisis is labeled as a Grade 3 Emergency—the highest level of internal grading, allowing for the highest intervention—the World Health Organization has also released $10m in support, and the UN $160m. Various countries have also pledged support for the flood relief, with the U.K. allocating £1.5m, and the U.S. allocating $30m in humanitarian assistance.
The latest emergency in Pakistan is just another stark reminder of the ever-looming presence and damage of climate change. Shamshaya, a 105-year-old resident of the Pakistani district of Swat Valley, exclaimed that she has never seen flooding like this in her entire life. The devastating impacts of climate change are not just emerging, they are already here.
Editors: Lang D.
Photo Credits: Shutterstock
This article was originally written in September 2022