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Why Pakistan needs help coping with climate disasters

Haroon Janjua in Islamabad
January 9, 2023

Pakistan is one of the nations most vulnerable to climate catastrophes caused by global warming, even though it is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

A man pulls his animals while others go to salvage their belongings amid rising flood water, following rains and floods during the monsoon season on the outskirts of Bhan Syedabad, Pakistan
The massive floods in Pakistan, caused by record monsoon rains and melting glaciers, killed at least 1,700 people and displaced around 8 million last yearImage: Akhtar Soomro/REUTERS

For Muhammad Bakhshal, a resident of Chandan Mori village in the district of Dadu in southern Pakistan, the massive floods that hit the country last year were disastrous.     

"I have never seen such rainfall and floods in my entire life. Even four months after the floods, we are still living on the roadside, in temporary camps, near our village," the 60-year-old told DW. 

The floods, caused by record monsoon rains and melting glaciers, killed at least 1,700 people and displaced around 8 million. The waters are still receding.

Livestock was the only means of livelihood for Bakhshal. But after losing two dozens of his cattle during the natural disaster, he was left with no means of income to survive.

Millions of Pakistanis face a similar situation.

"People are still living in tents in Sindh with limited access to food and health care. The children are suffering from malaria and there are reported deaths," Mashooq Birhamani, a social worker taking part in reconstruction efforts in Chandan Mori, told DW.

"In the areas where we are operating, water is still there and people need help," he said.

Billions of dollars needed

The country's prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, on Monday urged the

international community to give his country desperately needed aid to cope with the humanitarian crisis.

Addressing an international conference in Geneva jointly organized by the United Nations and Islamabad, Sharif said his country needed a total of $16.3 billion (€15.24 billion) to recover from the disaster, adding that his country could only cover half of that amount.

Sharif said his country would require $8 billion over the next three years from other countries.

Pakistan seeks funding for flood reconstruction

"The conference in Geneva intends to marshal global support and aid for the government and people of Pakistan for the rehabilitation and earliest possible recovery after the country went through one of the world's most devastating climate catastrophes in living memory," Pakistan's Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told DW.

Afia Salam, a Karachi-based environmentalist, said that Pakistan's demand for billions of dollars in climate aid was a big ask.

But she remains confident of Islamabad's ability to convince the international community of the need for such help, pointing to Pakistan's role at the forefront of efforts at last year's climate change conference (COP27) that led to the establishment of a "loss and damage" fund to cover the impacts of climate-related catastrophes.

"We must remember that it was this same team at COP 27 that showcased the disastrous impact of climate events through Pakistan's case of 2022 floods that actually resulted in the loss and damage deal," she said.

"Hopefully, they will be able to come away with something close to the amount they are demanding, even if it is released in a staggered manner," she added. 

Vulnerable to climate change

The South Asian country, with the world's fifth-largest population, is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but is one of the nations most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by global warming.

"Pakistan is the most vulnerable country to climate change. For rehabilitation we cannot wait, we need to address it, as another season of extreme weather could well hit us before we even begin rebuilding and rehabilitating this one," said Rehman.

Salam, the environmentalist, echoes a similar view.

"Pakistan has always been in the bracket of countries most vulnerable to climate change. The biggest problem is the lack of coping capacity and building a response mechanism, and going forward, climate proofing the country, be it infrastructure, agriculture, settlements et cetera," she said.

How Pakistan floods are impacting children's education

Global aid efforts

Ahamd Rafay Alam, an environmental lawyer, said that countries like Pakistan do not have the economic and technological resources to tackle the effects of climate change on their own.

That's why, he noted, there's a huge need for global efforts.

"This is a wake-up call for the world, we need to devise resilient policies to deal with such devastations," said Alam. 

On Monday, donors pledged more than $8 billion to assist Pakistan with recovery efforts, Pakistani Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said.

Germany promised €84 million to support Pakistan with its recovery efforts, while the EU agreed to provide €87 million and France €10 million.

The US, meanwhile, offered to give extra $100 million to Pakistan floods recovery, and the Islamic Development Bank pledged $4.2 billion over the next three years. 

Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru

Haroon Janjua
Haroon Janjua Journalist based in Islamabad, focusing on Pakistani politics and societyJanjuaHaroon