Nfter the biggest flood in Pakistan in decades, rescue work has begun in the South Asian country. Video footage from the flooded area shows helicopters dropping sacks of relief supplies and local residents being pulled into the interior of the aircraft by ropes. In one case, rescuers can be seen dragging a man with a white beard and children in life jackets in a bed frame on ropes across a river. The Pakistani military is also involved in the evacuation of the flooded places and the distribution of relief supplies. Thousands of soldiers are deployed for this purpose. The first international aid deliveries from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates also arrived on Tuesday. With more than 150 bridges and thousands of roads flooded and destroyed, aid distribution is difficult, especially in remote areas.
The aid organizations are preparing for the fact that Pakistan will be dependent on support in the long term. “It’s already clear: Pakistan will need a lot of help for a long time,” says Martin Kessler, director of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, which now wants to start its relief efforts. According to the authorities, more than 1,100 people have died as a result of the “monster monsoon” since mid-June. More than 30 million people are struggling with the effects of the continuous rain, around a million houses were damaged. Farmers have lost around 700,000 animals and around 1.6 million hectares of cultivated land. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif says there hasn’t been such heavy rainfall in Pakistan in the past 30 years. The government in Islamabad has declared a state of emergency and is asking for international help.
Ten billion euros are needed
Pakistan is experiencing a “monsoon on steroids,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday in a video message calling for international aid. Together with the government of Pakistan, the UN presented an initial aid plan for six months. According to the UN, around 160 million euros are needed immediately for this. In the long term, however, the country needs much more support. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal speaks of the equivalent of more than ten billion euros that Pakistan needs to repair and rebuild the damaged infrastructure. The rainfall that has been ongoing since June weakened somewhat at the beginning of the week. However, the authorities assume that the monsoon could bring heavy precipitation until September.
According to the organization Germanwatch, Pakistan is one of the countries most severely affected by climate change. The extent of the flooding is evident in satellite images showing the before and after in the hard-hit areas of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In some places, only treetops and house roofs can be seen from the places. Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman compared the extensively flooded landscape to an “ocean” in an interview. According to them, a third of the country is already under water.
Many rivers have turned into torrents, dragging houses built along the banks. Refugees live in tents and under tarpaulins by the roadside. Some have a few goats with them, others a blanket and some clothes. Around half a million people have become homeless. Many were taken in by relatives and friends, others live in makeshift camps.
After the flood, hunger threatens
Aid organizations assume that the disaster is already bigger than the “flood of the century” in 2010, when around 2,000 people died. It is also not the first extreme weather this year. Some of the areas were still suffering from a heat wave with temperatures of up to 50 degrees just a few months ago, says Isabel Bogorinsky, Welthungerhilfe program manager in Pakistan. She expects a “disaster after the disaster” when people starve due to the collapse in food production combined with high inflation. Women and children are particularly affected by the consequences, around a third of the fatalities were minors.
Through its local partner organizations, Kindernothilfe is now distributing drinking water, food parcels, tents, medicine and mosquito nets to affected families. “The children in particular need our support now,” says Carsten Montag, the organization’s board member. “Clean drinking water is scarce, makeshift shelters increase the risk of assault, and schooling must resume as soon as possible.”