Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal revealed the estimated cost Monday, telling CNN: “The world needs to come to Pakistan’s assistance to deal with the effects of climate change.”
In a statement Tuesday, Pakistan’s military said rescue missions were ongoing and international aid was beginning to arrive in the country, including seven military aircraft from Turkey and three from the United Arab Emirates.
Helicopters had evacuated more than 300 stranded people and distributed over 23 metric tons of relief items, while more than 50 medical camps have been established with over 33,000 patients being treated, the statement said.
Also on Tuesday, China will send two aircraft carrying 3,000 tents and Japan will send tarpaulins and shelters, the statement said, adding that the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Azerbaijan have announced financial assistance.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provided another lifeline Monday, releasing $1.17 billion in bailout funds to avert a default on the South Asian nation’s debt obligations as it grapples with political and economic turmoil worsened by the unprecedented floods.
Peter Ophoff, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Pakistan told CNN he had not seen anything on the scale of the floods in nearly three decades working for the aid agency.
“Pakistan is in dire need and the damages are here and we will be in this a very long time,” he said. “It’s not months but years we are talking about.”
About 33 million people — or 15% of the population — have been affected by the flooding and severe rains, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
At least 1,136 people, including 386 children, have been killed and 1,634 injured since mid-June, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said Monday, as the unrelenting rain raised fears of more fatalities to come. The floods have also destroyed key infrastructure including more than 130 bridges and nearly half a million homes, according to NDMA.
“By the time this is over, we could well have one quarter or one third of Pakistan under water,” Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman told Turkish news outlet TRT World last week.
‘Water gushed in’
Dramatic scenes of disaster have unfolded in Pakistan as floods inundated the country.
It was raining but not heavily, Ali Jan told Reuters Monday, as he stood surrounded by water in Chadsadda in northern Pakistan. But that quickly changed.
“Suddenly the outer wall of the compound collapsed and water gushed in,” Jan said. “We barely managed to save ourselves. By the time the women were leaving the house, the water had become almost waist-deep. We evacuated the women and the cattle. The rest is there for you to see. Crops have also been destroyed.”
In videos shared by the Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan, its volunteers used a bed frame and makeshift pulley system to help a child and elderly man cross rushing floodwaters, according to the NGO’s digital media manager Ihtisham Khaliq Waseer.
More than 3,000 volunteers from the NGO are distributing aid across the country, he said.
“We are getting aid but it’s not enough with what we need on the ground, because the damages are very much higher than expected,” he said, adding that volunteer teams have been stretched thin delivering supplies to hard-to-reach areas for weeks.
Waseer said he hopes that as rains weaken and flood waters recede in the coming week based on weather forecasts, his team would be able to deliver food rations and set up medical centers in remote areas.
“This is a climate crisis,” Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF’s representative in Pakistan told CNN. “A climate that has been mostly done by richer countries, contributing to the crisis, and I think it is time that the world responded to support Pakistan in this time of need.”
In a statement Monday, IRC’s Pakistan country director Shabnam Baloch said the country is “suffering the consequences of the world’s inaction” on climate change “despite producing less than 1% of the world’s carbon footprint.”
A lack of hygiene facilities and clean drinking water has exacerbated the risk of diseases spreading in flooded areas, with nearly 20,000 people in need of critical food supplies and medical support, Baloch added.
“Our needs assessment showed that we are already seeing a major increase in cases of diarrhea, skin infections, malaria and other illnesses,” she said. “We are urgently requesting donors to step up their support and help us save lives.”
The funds earmarked for release by the IMF on Monday are part of a 2019 bailout agreement to “put Pakistan’s economy on the path of sustainable and balanced growth,” according to the IMF.
“Pakistan’s economy has been buffeted by adverse external conditions, due to spillovers from the war in Ukraine, and domestic challenges,” Antoinette Sayeh, IMF deputy managing director and acting chair said in a statement Monday.
The IMF has been criticized in the past for imposing strict austerity on receiver nations, forcing governments to cut social programs and privatize national industries.
Additional reporting by Reuters.