UN Chief: Flood-Ravaged Pakistan Wrongly Attacked by ‘Blind’ Nature

ISLAMABAD — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while referring to Pakistan’s catastrophic floods, said Friday that “humanity has declared war on nature and nature is striking back.”

Guterres spoke in Islamabad at the start of his two-day visit to express solidarity with the flood-ravaged South Asian nation. He said nature is blind and it is not striking back at those who have contributed more to the war on nature.

“It’s like nature has attacked the wrong targets. It should be those that are more responsible for climate change that should have to face this kind of challenge,” Guterres said.

He described Pakistan among the places most affected by the consequences of climate change.

The country of about 220 million people contributes less than 1% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, but it is constantly listed among the top 10 countries vulnerable to climate change.

“So, there is an obligation of the international community to massively support Pakistan in these circumstances, and there is an obligation of the international community to take seriously the need to drastically reduce emissions," he said.

Guterres renewed his call for increasing international support to help Pakistan deal with the emergency, promising mobilization of more U.N. resources.

"We know that our contribution is limited. We know that what we do is a drop in the ocean of the needs, but we are totally committed,” he said.

Pakistan is currently being hit by catastrophic and unprecedented floods stemming from historic monsoon rains that began in mid-June. The U.N. says the seasonal downpours "have broken a century-long record" and dumped more than five times the 30-year average for rainfall in some parts of the country.

The calamity has reignited debate about global warming – particularly carbon emissions by the world’s most industrialized nations – as developing countries bear the brunt of its consequences.

The flooding has claimed the lives of about 1,400 people, including nearly 500 children, and has affected 33 million others, with nearly 700,000 people made homeless, and drenched one-third of Pakistan, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Nearly 13,000 people have been injured and upwards of 750,000 livestock have perished in floodwaters.

Pakistani officials say damage to infrastructure and property also has been colossal, as more than 1.7 million homes have been washed away or damaged. The flooding has turned most of southern Sindh province, one of the hardest-hit regions, into an “ocean of water,” according to Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman.

The U.N. has called for $160 million in international assistance to help the flood victims. The World Health Organization has said more than 6.4 million flood victims need humanitarian support.

Guterres said Pakistan would require billions of dollars in reconstruction assistance. He discussed with Pakistani leaders the possibility of organizing an international conference to mobilize global support for the country.

“Let's not forget that monsoons have not ended, that the melting of glaciers will go on and for a number of years will still increase. So, we need to support Pakistan, to be prepared for the future -- not only to respond to the present crisis,” he stated.

On Friday, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged an additional $20 million, building on an announcement last week of more than $30 million in humanitarian assistance to support Pakistan’s response to the flooding.

Samantha Power, the USAID chief, announced the aid at a news conference in Islamabad after touring southern Sindh province, one of the worst-hit Pakistani regions. She said she could only see an “unending pool of water” while flying over the affected districts.

“I witnessed the destruction brought by these once-in-a-century floods. Field after field of submerged cotton and wheat crops, submerged date palms, the faint realm of only the roofs of homes and schools, medical facilities…Rivers that seemed more like oceans that stretched mile after mile into the distance,” Power said.

The National Disaster Management Authority, in its latest situation report, said the raging floodwaters have washed away or damaged 246 bridges, nearly 7,000 kilometers of roads, and swamped more than 1618,740 hectares of farmland across the country. Officials estimate the disaster could have cost the country between $15 billion and $20 billion in losses, and the reconstruction process could take years.

More than 50 international humanitarian relief flights have arrived in Pakistan as of Friday from countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, China, France, Iran, Britain, Azerbaijan, Norway, the United States and Kazakhstan.

The U.S. Department of Defense has also begun airlifting "critical life-saving humanitarian supplies" to Pakistan from USAID’s warehouse in Dubai. The U.S. military's C17 Globemaster cargo aircraft will transport the supplies over the course of the coming days on approximately 20 different flights.

Source: Voice of America

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