Flood Affectees Have Been Given Nothing But Vain Promises

Flood Affectees Have Been Given Nothing But Vain Promises
In their struggle for accumulating power, those in national politics have entirely forgotten about the devastation that the flood affected people have had to face in these last few months. The promises made to them on television or in person by different political personalities were just empty words that cloaked the incompetence of their respective governments.

Pakistan has consistently ranked in the top 10 of most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index for the past 20 years, and has repeatedly faced the brunt of climate disasters – such as the floods of 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2011. Despite these destructive events, no government has adopted any substantive measures to tackle the issue of climate vulnerability or even lend an ear to the predicament of the affected people unless it was to bolster their public image and shore up electoral support. The floods of 2022 then were a disaster that was of our own incompetence’s making; at the end of August, the flooding had left more than 1,300 people dead, 33 million residents displaced, and caused economic damage of about $13 billion dollars.

Over the past few months, I have had several discussions with the flood-affected people due to my work with different NGOs. People have lost everything they owned, and have had to relocate to save their lives. To my surprise, the majority complained about how the government has failed to rescue them or even provide them with the necessities they needed to survive. Despite their appearances in the different flood-affected areas, political leaders paid little attention to the genuine concerns of the people. All the promises that they made during their visits meant nothing after they left.

On international fora, the Prime Minister of Pakistan said that his government is actively engaging with other developed countries to provide aid to Pakistan. At COP27, a Loss and Damage fund for the top 10 affected countries was established as the Prime Minister claimed that developed countries have a responsibility to Pakistan to provide aid in the name of climate justice, because Pakistan emits less than 1% of the world’s carbon emission footprint. Foreign aid was provided by different countries, little by little, but even then, the international community did less than promised.

The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund was for many the main highlight of the COP27 that was formed by the consistent effort of the developing countries. The Fund’s main purpose was to ensure that the major contributors of carbon emissions, mainly the G20 countries, pay climate justice damages to vulnerable nations that are most affected by the climate crisis, like Pakistan. For this purpose, it was agreed that traditional financing instruments could be used to deal with loss and damage. Social protection, contingency finance, catastrophe risk insurance and catastrophe bonds will be provided that would act as a buffer against the catastrophe.

Although this development was indeed appreciable, its success will depend on how quickly these nations respond and pay the damages to the nations that are in dire need of it. In Pakistan, the recent floods wreaked havoc and people most affected by them - about 33 million of them - are looking towards their government and the international community for help. It is important for the United Nations to work on this Fund with utmost diligence and fill the gap that the Green Climate Fund (2010) promised.

During the relief operations, we came across the dire state of affairs of the government. In the flood affected areas, it was every person for themselves - as government officials did little to help and were hoarding funds and any food that was provided for victims, by giving the justification that the flood spared no one. Government employees that were affected by the floods were wondering where the people in the offices that held press conferences were and only came once to say “we stand with you”. It was a heartbreaking scene when we met two little girls during the flood relief operation a few days ago; both were crying in the cold and one of them said to me: “My father always brought in the winter… He is dead now, who will provide us with wood now.”

The majority of aid efforts were focused in urban centers, where they knew that public support would deliver them victory in the next elections. The rural areas that were affected the most were paid no attention. As the country settles into winter, flood-affected people are having to deal with the severe problem of food insecurity, water-contaminated diseases, insulation, and shelter. They are uncertain of their future and what they did to deserve all this misery.

Most of the flood relief efforts thus far have been carried by different NGOs and the Pakistan Army. As for the affected people, these NGO workers and trucks of uniformed men provided a sigh of relief. But this will certainly prove to be insufficient. In Sindh, which has borne over 70% of the damage caused by to the floods, the government already only has 1 doctor per 1,000 patients and the growth of 50% of children under 5 experiences stunted growth.

All that I have witnessed in the past months is that the scale of destruction that the unprecedented monsoon rains brought upon scores of people in Pakistan was a consequence of the inability of the previous government to fulfill their role. This catastrophe should serve as a wake-up call for the present and forthcoming government of Pakistan to rectify their previous mistakes and work for the betterment of people instead of their interest by investing in disaster mitigation.

Climate justice funding and aid efforts are just like a drop of water in a broken bucket. Unless our government takes concrete steps to improve our crisis response, systematic development, emergency fund, and aid allocation, such disasters in the future will continue to devastate human life and spread chaos in the country.






The writer is a researcher based in Lahore.