Keynote Address by the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Minister Ahsan Iqbal,
Minister Sherry Rehman,
UNRC Julien Harneis,
Colleagues in Geneva,
I speak to you at a time of grave crisis in Pakistan.
As you can see, we are in the midst of the climate catastrophe of the decade, one that has ravaged the entire country in a humanitarian disaster of unimaginable scale and magnitude. Heartwrenching scenes of loss, damage and despair have defined this super-flood as a climate calamity, through which we strive even today to reach our fellow citizens to provide crucial rescue and relief assistance.
At the outset, let me just say that what we are facing today has been no “above-average” monsoon. It is an entirely new level of climate-led predation. Since mid-June, in fact, Pakistan has been battling one of the most severe, totally anomalous cycles of torrential monsoon weather. Rainfall during this period has been equivalent to 3 times the 30-year national average, with many areas challenged with facing down 5-6 times and even more. Before that, Pakistan’s heatwave crossed global records for redefining a no-spring seasonal change, with mercury crossing 53 C in the province of Sindh, while triggering glacial lake outburst floods in our northern areas, home to the largest number of glaciers outside the polar region.
The current cycle of super-flooding we see today, then, is part of these extreme weather patterns.
Unprecedented levels of cloudbursts, torrential and uninterrupted rain have caused widespread devastation, triggering both urban flooding, river floods, hill torrents and landslides, resulting in loss of human lives, livelihoods and livestock, and severe damage to property and infrastructure. Southern, Central and Northern Pakistan have been the worst affected, particularly Balochistan and Sindh. It is feared that the scale of the disaster well exceeds that of the 2010 mega-floods.
Nature is sending us all a new message. And because of its geographic location, and a confluence of other vectors, Pakistan has become the ground zero of this century’s biggest existential threat, global warming.
In some cases, the water is just everywhere, in an unbroken horizon of inundation. Seventy-two Districts have been declared, “calamity-hit”. Over 33 million people have been affected, which is the size of a small country; more than 1,000, including women and children, have lost their lives; and many more are injured.
Livelihoods are severely impacted with the loss of livestock, not to mention crop losses, among other crucial sources of sustenance.
Hundreds of thousands of women, children and men have been displaced and forced to spend days and nights in camps and open areas, under a merciless sky. Lack of access to food, clean water, shelter and basic healthcare is making life harder for them with each passing day.
Critical infrastructure – roads, bridges and railway network – has been seriously damaged or destroyed. This is impeding our efforts for delivery of aid and transportation of affectees to safer locations.
The situation is likely to deteriorate even further as heavy rains continue over areas already inundated by more than two months of storms and flooding. For us, this is no less than a national emergency. For the most vulnerable, especially the women and children impacted by this disaster, this is a life-defining experience.
I have personally visited many of the flood-hit areas. Words cannot describe what it feels like to see people displaced from their own homes while mourning the loss of their loved ones. I have seen the pain, anguish and suffering in their eyes, having literally lost everything they owned – now waiting for the next food pack, unsure about their future. They are looking up to us for survival, and to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
In addition to the human misery, these extraordinary floods have taken a severe toll on the economy, and further stretched our limited resources.
The Government of Pakistan is cognizant of its responsibilities and has been leading the humanitarian response with invaluable support from the UN and humanitarian partners.
As part of our national effort, we have earmarked Rs. 35 billion (US$ 173 million) to help flood-affected people through direct cash transfers. This will be disbursed through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), to 1.5 million families who will each receive Rs. 25,000 (US$ 115) in immediate cash relief. Rs. 5 billion (US$ 23 million) has been allocated to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for relief activities.
The Government is also providing Rs. 1 million (US$ 4,615) in ex-gratia compensation to the next of kin of each deceased; Rs. 250,000 (US$ 1,154) for injuries and for partially damaged houses; and Rs. 500,000 (US$ 2,308) for destroyed houses.
In addition to financial support, food packs; shelter items including tents; and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) supplies are also being provided by NDMA and PDMAs.
The Government’s efforts are being supported by the Pakistani nation with people, civil society and humanitarian organizations stepping forward in a big way to complement the relief work with our characteristic generosity and philanthropic spirit. The Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2022 has also been established to facilitate people all over the country and overseas to contribute to the flood relief efforts.
But as is evident, this disaster is colossal in its scale and devastation. It has severely strained, even overwhelmed, both our resources and capacities. It has left millions vulnerable to health emergencies and a critical lack of basic survival needs. The gap between such needs and the capacity to deliver with speed and scale is crucial at this point. It requires urgent cooperation and support from the international community.
We are profoundly grateful for the initial round of spontaneous solidarity and support from so many of our friends and partners from around the world. I would like to acknowledge and thank all our friends for the prompt financial support and relief assistance being provided by several countries as well as the United Nations, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
We are especially grateful to the UN Resident Coordinator and his Team for the excellent support that has been extended to us since the onset of this calamity.
We need to expand and scale-up these efforts and response. For that we are launching this “UN Flash Appeal” for Pakistan’s Flood Response Plan today.
The Appeal prioritizes focused interventions in areas of education; food security and agriculture; health; nutrition; protection; shelter and non-food items; and water, sanitation and hygiene. We also need assistance with livelihoods and livestock support as well as relief machinery and equipment.
We urgently need shelter and tents, and mosquito nets – if they can be arranged and transported.
This Appeal is expected to address only a part of the overall requirements and will, therefore, complement the broader effort. I would like to urge the international community to give its full backing to the Flash Appeal to help our people most in need.
I hope our partners would appreciate that given the urgent requirements of this catastrophe and the compounded burden on our economy, the humanitarian assistance being offered does not cut into the already committed development assistance.
Beyond the immediate rescue and relief efforts, we would need support for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the flood-affected areas.
I encourage you to contribute generously towards meeting the funding requirements of this Response Plan, and going beyond.
We believe the efforts of the UN will be boosted by swift offers and announcements of support from your countries.
The calamity we are facing is a clear manifestation of the direct and unmitigated consequences of climate change. As one of the small emitters on the planet, less than one percent of the GHG sources, in fact, Pakistan is in the frontlines of the devastations caused by global warming. This mega-flood has once again made us acutely aware of our vulnerability to recurring climate shocks. Such episodes are becoming all too frequent, and increasingly more devastating. I hope you will agree that both in the spirit of climate justice, as well as humanitarian assistance, the international community needs to step up and share the burden with those most affected and impacted by the rapidly changing climate and weather patterns.