Climate Crisis: Pakistan Is In Urgent Need Of Assistance To Rebuild & Adapt, Sherry Rehman

Climate Crisis: Pakistan Is In Urgent Need Of Assistance To Rebuild & Adapt, Sherry Rehman
In a statement issued on Wednesday 28 September the Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman spoke about the current state of the flood crisis highlighting that flood waters are still standing in large parts of Sindh and many parts of the land are below sea level.

As per Rehman, funds and resources to save lives and provide shelter are still in short supply. Immediate relief needs are swallowing up all available resources, and despite development partners stepping in as well as the UNSG who has made an impassioned appeal to assist Pakistan, the gap between existing and upcoming needs is huge.

"Just the huge dewatering needs to pump out entire mini-oceans cannot be met at this scale, at least with the current water engineering resources available. Nobody ever expected or planned for this much water to bomb down from the sky, nor have we ever seen this quantum of flooding in any part of Pakistan ever before," said Rehman.

Addressing the shortage of funds, the Minister stressed on how all development and climate resilience funds have been repurposed towards relief, especially to frontload the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) as a means of ensuring that the PKR 25,000 tranches are made available immediately to affected families.

"In addition to the UN system, given the scale and immediacy of the disaster, we urgently need more assistance from the international community for relief, as thousands are still in tents, while many still seek a cover over their heads. Thousands are still seeking shelter, and we worry about people spending the entire winter this way. Pakistan will need much more to service 33 million people affected," she added.

Pakistan’s economic system has sustained a huge exogenous shock. Urgent buffers are needed from a debt overhang that is squeezing out fiscal options to rebuild almost half the country, while there is also the need for climate resilience funds that can be accessed with speed and scale. Currently, all climate funding is very slow to access, nor is it available for the kind of rebuilding needed. The relief funds pouring in right now from friendly countries are serving as band aids, which are essential to cope, but certainly not enough for rebuilding or a sustainable future for the country.

As per the Minister, there is no immediate basket of accessible funds for climate resilient recovery, let alone disaster-assistance. Since both are triggered by climate impacts, the economic buffer for countries already in debt-stress should be clearly appropriated and disbursed as climate funds that are easy to access, with predictable transfers. "If Pakistan emits less than one percent that causes the warming that triggers such shocks, why is assistance cast in a “disaster-aid or begging-bowl basket”? It should not. Not at all,” said Rehman.

Speaking on the food insecurity caused by flood losses, the Minister remarked, “Pakistan is faced with the threat of food insecurity as the floods have drowned vast swathes of agricultural land, and made the cost or availability of food a prohibitive cost. The Hunger Hotspot Report 2022 (FAO-WFP early warnings on food insecurity) shows that the impact of the floods will compound the rapid deterioration of the country’s situation, driving food insecurity beyond the 4.7 million (26%) severely food insecure population in 3 provinces of the country; Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. Not only have we lost the crops that were to be harvested, there are serious concerns over how much land will be available for the upcoming planting (Rabi) season. Initial damage estimates indicate a loss of 74% of cultivable land in Sindh alone; totalling to 3,410,743 acres. The province, which is considered Pakistan’s bread basket, has lost 100% of its Cotton crop, 88% of Vegetables, and 66% of Rice to the floods. Nationally, over 4 million acres of agricultural land have been lost to the floods amounting to a financial loss of over 481 million Rupees.”

Climate change will surely impact the nature of crops, soil fertility, pest attacks, irrigation requirements and water availability. Prior to the floods, heat waves had caused a 5-10% decline in the country’s wheat yields. At the moment it is difficult to gauge the true extent of the damage because of the stagnating floodwater; the numbers from the aforementioned initial estimates may increase as the water recedes and more accurate assessments can be carried out.

The WTO has warned today of the oncoming global recession citing shocks from climate change, wars and food price-hikes as some of the reasons behind the global economic stress. Pakistan’s losses in agriculture and infrastructure surely place us in a difficult position. As of right now, Pakistan remains in dire need of climate finance to help mitigate the impacts of the climate catastrophe that has made us the new ground zero of the climate crisis.

Highlighting the health crisis in flood affected areas the Minister said, “The stagnating water has pushed us back to another century of disease prevalence. Diseases that had virtually disappeared from the country, like diphtheria are making a come-back, while cholera, dengue, malaria, diarrhoea, skin diseases, and other water borne diseases are breeding exponentially in the stagnant water, which we do not have large enough pumps to pull out in the quantities needed. The emergence of Hepatitis-E for pregnant flood victims is another immediate worry. "I am told by experts that if they don’t move to urban hospitals, a total of 42,000 among 128,000 pregnant women are expected to give birth in the flood hit areas within the next three months. Right now, the crisis of access to roads is very real, and at the same time the flood waters are not receding.”

Emphasising on the urgency of climate finance needs, Minister Rehman said, “Long-term climate financing instruments are needed to plug severe capacity deficits in the developing countries right now as the protracted periods of pipelining funds lose potency when resilience needs change faster than the speed of resource dispersion. What has happened in Pakistan will certainly not only stay in Pakistan, we are seeing climate change impacts crossing borders and wreaking havoc, whether it's hurricane Fiona that has hit Puerto Rico, Nigeria battling floods like never before and the forest fires and heatwaves in all of Europe and USA. Financial pipelines must be created to facilitate swift transfer of funds to countries in the Global South that are reeling from climate shocks."