ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan is seeking UN assistance in securing long-term aid for survivors of last summer’s deadly and record-breaking floods before recovery funds run out next month, so that a UK-based charity on Friday urged donors to step in before the harsh winter.
The grim threshold for Pakistan could come as early as January 15, according to Chris Kaye, country director of the World Food Programme. Kaye said that without further help, the impending exhaustion would mark “a very serious crisis ahead of us as we enter 2023”.
The unprecedented flooding, which experts blame in part on climate change, broke out in mid-June and at one point during the summer deluge, a third of Pakistan’s territory was submerged. More than 1,700 people have been killed and although waters began to recede in September, Pakistani authorities say 23,000 survivors are still living in tents in flooded areas of Sindh province.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday and told him he was seeking support from the global body to raise funds from ” major donors, development institutions and the private sector” to fuel the recovery effort.
During the meeting, António Guterres “reaffirmed the full support and cooperation of the United Nations, both for the ongoing humanitarian relief work as well as for the long-term recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction” in the flood-affected areas in Pakistan, Bhutto-Zardari said.
The two men spoke on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of the Group of 77, a coalition of 134 mainly developing countries and China, in New York. Bhutto-Zardari also thanked the UN chief for agreeing to co-host an international conference on “Climate Resilient Pakistan” in Geneva early next month.
At a press conference in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Thursday, WFP’s Kaye and UN Humanitarian Coordinator Julien Harneis said the number of people in Pakistan in need of essential food aid is expected to rise from 4 million people previously estimated at 5.1 million. during the winter.
According to UN officials in Pakistan, the international body has received only a third of the $816 million in emergency aid it requested in October.
The winter cold is contributing to the urgency of the crisis, Kaye said. Some of the WFP supplies were recently looted by flood victims in a water-ravaged area of Khairpur district in the southern province of Sindh, where floods have affected 12 million people and killed 796.
“People are desperate and we have to help them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UK-based charity Islamic Relief on Friday urged international donors to increase funding for Pakistani flood survivors who are facing a harsh winter in the northwest and southwest of the country, where the snow has already started to fall.
Freezing temperatures this month have hit many homeless Pakistani flood survivors who have been forgotten by the world and been living in the open, Islamic Relief said.
“In living memory, the humanitarian response to Pakistan’s worst floods is only 23% funded,” said Asif Sherazi, the charity’s director in Pakistan. Rural communities urgently need the reconstruction of homes and health centers, but in many areas lack funds.
Contrary to the global attention when the floods hit last summer, “now it looks like Pakistan is off the agenda and the people have been forgotten,” Sherazi said.
Islamic Relief has so far provided aid to more than 870,000 people in Pakistan, Sherazi said, adding that around 100,000 women are about to give birth in flood-affected areas.
“We are concerned that many pregnant women and their newborn babies will die if they cannot access maternity care services when needed,” he said.