ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Friday said the apocalyptic rains and floods that had hit Pakistan last summer claimed 1,700 lives, left a swathe of territory the size of Switzerland under water and affected 33 million people – more people than live in most European countries. In an article for the Guardian newspaper, Shehbaz Sharif wrote: “International attention has receded, but the waters have not. Large parts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces remain inundated.
The number of foodinsecure people in Pakistan has doubled to 14 million; another 9 million have been pushed into extreme poverty. These flooded areas now look like a huge series of permanent lakes, transforming forever the terrain and the lives of people living there.
No amount of pumps can remove this water in less than a year; and by July 2023, the worry is that these areas may flood again. “Pakistan is suffering not just from flooding but from recurring climate extremes – earlier in spring 2022, the country was in the grip of a scorching, drought-aggravating heatwave that caused forest fires in the west. The fact that some of the same areas that received record temperatures were subsequently submerged underlines the sharp swings in weather patterns that are becoming a norm. “Pakistanis have responded to this latest calamity with exemplary resilience. Already facing severe economic headwinds, the government scrambled to generate funds enabling direct cash transfers of more than $250m (£200m) to more than 2 million households.
In all, we managed to mobilise about $1.5bn in emergency relief out of our own meagre resources. We are grateful to the international community and friends of Pakistan for their generosity in helping us to avoid the worst.
While the World Health Organization had designated the situation as a high-level health emergency, the feared waterborne diseases and localised epidemics did not break out due to the efficient working of our vast network of medical camps. Similarly, we were able to restore the damaged communication networks between cities and villages very quickly.