UN chief appeals to world to help flood-hit Pakistan

Antonio Guterres appealed for $160 million in emergency funding to help those affected by the monsoon rains and floods

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appealed to the world to help Pakistan as he arrived in the country on Friday to assess the devastation caused by months of floods that have left half a million people living in tents.

Mr Guterres's trip comes less than two weeks after he appealed for $160 million in emergency funding to assist Pakistanis affected by the monsoon rains and floods that have caused at least $10 billion in damages and killed 1,391 people.

International aid is arriving, including the first planeload of aid from the US, which pledged $30m in assistance.

“I have arrived in Pakistan to express my deep solidarity with the Pakistani people after the devastating floods here,” Mr Guterres said. “I appeal for massive support from the international community as Pakistan responds to this climate catastrophe,” he said on Twitter.”

Last week, the UN chief issued a stern warning about the effects of climate change.

“Let’s stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change,” he said in a video message at the time. “Today, it is Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.”

Pakistan’s Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb thanked the UN chief for visiting the country at a time when, she said, one third of Pakistan was underwater. She said she wanted the visit to help to elevate the crisis for flood victims at a global level.

“The visit will also help in realising the consequences of the deadly effects of climate change,” she said.

Ms Aurangzeb urged the international community to step up efforts to help poor countries affected by floods and natural disasters.

Mr Guterres will be briefed by Pakistani officials about the flood damage before addressing a news conference with Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in Islamabad on Friday, she said.

So far, UN agencies and several countries have sent about 60 planeloads of aid. Authorities said the UAE was one of the most generous contributors, having sent 26 planes carrying aid for flood victims.

The US said it would provide $30 million in assistance to help flood victims.

The floods have affected more than 3.3 million people across Pakistan.

Heritages sites have also been damaged, including Mohenjo Daro, a Unesco World Heritage Site considered one of the best-preserved ancient urban settlements in southern Asia.

The ruins near the Indus River were discovered in 1922 and to this day, mystery surrounds the disappearance of a civilisation dating back 4,500 years to around the same time as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The UN heritage agency announced an emergency amount of $350,000 on Thursday to help flood-damaged cultural heritage sites to recover.

A view of a mosque and flooded homes on the outskirts of Bhan Syedabad in Pakistan. Reuters

Mr Guterres was received on his arrival by Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and is expected to meet Mr Sharif and other government and military officials.

Before the UN chief’s arrival, Mr Sharif told a visiting American diplomat that the world should step up its fight against climate change to avoid more deadly flooding.

Derek Chollet, a senior State Department official, was visiting Islamabad to assess the damage and arrange aid. Mr Chollet said the US would stand by Pakistan and help it rebuild.

The first American plane carrying aid is set to arrive in the country on Friday, according to Pakistan officials, who said Washington was setting up a humanitarian aid air bridge to deliver much-needed relief for flood victims.

Since June, heavy rains and floods have added new burdens to cash-strapped Pakistan and highlighted the disproportionate effect of climate change on impoverished populations.

Pakistan is responsible for only 0.4 per cent of the world’s historic emissions responsible for climate change, experts have said. The US is responsible for 21.5 per cent, China for 16.5 per cent and the EU 15 per cent.

The floods in Pakistan have also injured 12,722 people, destroyed thousands of kilometres of roads, toppled bridges and damaged schools and hospitals, according to the National Disaster Management Agency.

Updated: September 09, 2022, 7:33 AM
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