Pakistan urgently needs resilience, rebuilding adaptation funds: Sherry

Islamabad: Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman on Wednesday said after flash floods most parts of Sindh were still inundated as many areas were below the sea level.

In a statement issued here, the minister maintained that funds and resources were not enough for saving lives and providing shelter to the flood affectees.

She called for bridging the gap between existing and upcoming needs despite immediate response from the development partners and the UN Secretary General’s appeal to assist Pakistan.

“One thing is affecting every relief effort, and that is a clear deficit of funds and goods. We have already re-purposed all development and climate resilience funds towards relief, especially to front load the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) to ensure that the Rs25,000 tranches are made available immediately to affected families,” she said.

The minister said, “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.”

About food insecurity Sherry said, “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.”

She went on saying, “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; totaling 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.”

About the climate impacts, she said, “Climate impacts 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. 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. 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.”

About health issues in flood hit 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, Diarrhea, 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.”

Emphasizing the urgency of climate finance needs, Sherry 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.”