Pakistan’s foreign minister called for urgent international aid as the death toll from historic floods across the country is expected to rise in the coming days.
Already ravaged by an economic crisis, floods have submerged over a third of the country, killing over 1,000 and affecting 33 million people.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the country’s foreign minister, told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Thursday that he feared damage from the natural disaster will exceed current estimates of $10 billion, adding that the crisis in the country is still ongoing and is in the “rescue and relief phase”. ”
The flooding, which Bhutto Zardari described to CNBC as “a climate catastrophe of biblical proportions,” is affecting over 95,000 square miles of land. Bhutto Zardari said the crisis is far from over as “southern areas of Pakistan are still preparing for the river floods coming from the north”.
“Pakistan is at this point paying with its life and livelihood for a climate catastrophe not caused by them,” he said. Pakistan’s contribution to global carbon emissions is less than 1%, but it is among the 10 countries most affected by climate change in the world.
The South Asian nation of over 220 million people reported a 27% inflation rate for August, according to government data, and has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the country’s currency has fallen while net foreign exchange reserves shrank to just $8 billion in August.
Rural areas in Pakistan are hit hardest by flooding.
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Political infighting has swept the country since April after the ouster of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was charged by Pakistani police under anti-terror laws.
Impact of food inflation
Rural areas in Pakistan will be hit hardest by flooding, which will have a greater impact on Pakistan’s agriculture and ultimately food costs.
Bhutto Zardari told CNBC “about 80 to 90 percent” of Pakistan’s crops were damaged by the floods. The International Rescue Committee reports that 4 million acres of crops were destroyed and 800,000 livestock perished.
Before the disaster, food inflation was much higher in rural provinces than in urban areas. For example, the cost of onions in urban areas of Pakistan increased by 89% from July 2021 to July 2022. In rural areas, this cost increase exceeded 100%.
The International Monetary Fund on Monday approved the release of $1.1 billion in special drawing rights to Pakistan as part of its bailout program that began in 2019.
The money was already part of an aid program designed to help Pakistan stabilize its economy. Pakistan has now launched a joint appeal with the United Nations for about $160 million, which Bhutto Zardari told CNBC “is obviously a very conservative estimate of the absolute minimum requirements right now.”
Over a million homes were destroyed and Bhutto Zardari added that vital infrastructure such as bridges, road networks and dams were damaged. Pakistan, he says, will “need large-scale reconstruction, which will require a lot of work,” in the future.
Flooded residential areas after heavy monsoon rains in Dera Allah Yar city in Jaffarabad district, Balochistan province.
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