Pakistan: Stepping Up Efforts to Help Flood Victims

Pakistan: Stepping up efforts to help flood victims

A man struggles to find his way through flooding in Pakistan.

Efforts ramp up on Tuesday to help tens of millions of Pakistanis affected by relentless monsoon rains since June, which have submerged a third of the country and caused the death of more than 1,100 people.

More than 10 billion US dollars (13 billion Canadian dollars) will be needed to repair the damage and rebuild the infrastructure damaged by the floods, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal told AFP on Tuesday.

Massive damage has been caused to infrastructure, particularly in the telecommunications, roads, agriculture and livelihood sectors, he pointed out .

The rains, unprecedented for 30 years according to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, have destroyed or seriously damaged more than a million homes and devastated large swaths of agricultural land essential to the country's economy.

Authorities and humanitarian organizations are struggling to speed up the delivery of aid to more than 33 million people.

The task is difficult, because the waves have washed away a number of roads and bridges, completely isolating certain regions.

In the south and west, there are almost no dry places left and the displaced have to crowd onto major roads or high railway tracks to escape the flooded plains. .

One ​​in seven Pakistanis affected by floods.

And in the northern mountainous areas, authorities are still trying to reach isolated villages, which could further raise the death toll to 1,136 since the start of the monsoon in June.

The victims took refuge along the rare dry areas to seek shelter, food and drinking water.

For God's sake help us, pleaded Qadir, 35, who is now camping with his family near Sukkur after walking for three days to get there. There is nothing left in our home, we just managed to save our lives.

Pakistani officials attribute the devastating bad weather to climate change, saying their country is suffering the consequences of environmental practices irresponsible elsewhere in the world.

To see the devastation on the ground is truly mind-boggling, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman told AFP on Monday, referring to a crisis in the unimaginable proportions.

Literally, a third of Pakistan is under water now, more than during the 2010 floods when 2,000 people were killed and almost a fifth of the country was submerged by monsoon rains , she explained.

Flood-affected residents gather next to their damaged homes along the Indus River

All is just one big ocean, there there is no dry place to pump water from. It has become a crisis of unimaginable proportions, she added.

The province of Sind, located in the south of the country, is an endless horizon of water and the main river of the country, the Indus, fed by countless streams from the north , threatens to get out of bed.

Pakistan has received twice as much rainfall as usual, according to the meteorological service. In the most affected southern provinces, rains were more than four times the average for the past 30 years.

These floods come at the worst time for Pakistan, which had already sought international aid to help its struggling economy. The government has declared a state of emergency and called on the international community to support it.

It launched an urgent appeal with the United Nations on Tuesday for donations of 160 million to finance an emergency plan for the next six months, initially intended to provide basic services (health, food, drinking water and shelter) to the 5.2 million most affected people .

International aid arrived in Pakistan on Monday, as the army and volunteers desperately tried to evacuate several thousand people stranded by widespread flooding.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday gave its agreement to the resumption of a long-negotiated and essential financial support program for the country, and announced the release of an envelope of 1.1 billion dollars.

Staple food prices are skyrocketing – tomatoes and onions are up 40% in a week – and supply issues are already happening felt in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab.

Makeshift camps have appeared all over the place in schools, on highways and on military bases, in particular, to accommodate people displaced.

In Nowshera, in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a college has been turned into a shelter for some 2,500 people struggling to find food and water .

I never thought I would ever have to live like this, said Malang Jan, 60, whose home n was swallowed up by the waters. We have lost our paradise and now we are forced to live a life of misery.

Risks to Canada's economy from water abound, experts say

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