Pakistan’s 2022 monsoon season has produced significant rainfall, devastating floods and landslides, affecting millions of people.
United Nations (UN) officials say it could take six months for floodwaters to recede in the hardest-hit areas. The floods have affected all four of the country’s provinces and approximately 15% of its population. Human Rights Watch has said the floods show the need for climate action.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said, “Pakistan has never seen a starker and more devastating example of the impact of global warming … Nature has unleashed her fury on Pakistan without looking at our carbon footprint, which is next to nothing. Our actions did not contribute to this.”
Pakistani authorities say the devastation from this year’s floods is worse than in 2010, when 1,700 people were killed, and a large international response was coordinated. At that time, the UN Secretary General said that the disaster was the worst disaster he had ever seen. Local officials have warned it could take up to six months for floodwaters to recede in the hardest-hit areas.
During his visit to flood-affected areas, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “I have seen many humanitarian disasters in the world, but I have never seen climate carnage on this scale.” In a statement released by the UN, Guterres linked the floods with rising greenhouse gases emission and called for an increase in financing for adaptation.
Following the record monsoon rains, authorities struggle to keep Manchar Lake, the country’s biggest, from bursting its banks. At least three breaches of the lake’s banks have displaced more than 100,000 people, and key supply routes are at risk of being inundated. Satellite images of the lake’s breaches illustrate how widespread and impactful additional overflows would be. On Sept. 19, the floodwater in Manchar lake receded further, allowing some displaced people to return to their homes.
The rainfall and subsequent flooding have damaged Mohenjo-daro, a 4,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site near the Indus river.
(Photo: Rescue activities in flood-affected areas in South Punjab, Pakistan. Credit: Punjab Emergency Services via Twitter)
The disaster is likely the result of a combination of factors, including the socioeconomic conditions of affected people, steep slopes in some regions, unexpected failing of embankments and climate variation. One study found that the 2010 flood event was made more likely by global heating, driving fiercer rains.
According to another 2021 study, global heating is making the south Asian monsoon more intense and erratic. The Global Climate Risk Index ranks Pakistan eighth most at risk in the world. Since 1959, Pakistan has been responsible for only 0.4% of the world’s historic emissions blamed for climate change, whereas the U.S. is responsible for 21.5%. A group of international climate scientists in Pakistan, Europe and the U.S. says climate change made the heavy rainfall in 2022 more likely.
Adding a layer of complexity to the disaster is the country’s bleak economic situation. Pakistan was facing a serious debt crisis but was able to avert bankruptcy by agreeing to a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July. The IMF executive board approved almost $1.2 billion for the country on Aug. 29, providing much-needed relief. However, the measures the country was forced to agree to, including reducing subsidies and rising prices on electricity and fuel, may have negative implications for the population. The economic situation may have an impact on disaster relief and recovery.
- Since the monsoon season began in mid-June, floods have affected at least 33 million people and killed at least 1,559.
- Some 1.1 million livestock have been killed since mid-June, with severe repercussions on the livelihoods of affected households and the supply of animal products, including milk and meat.
- According to officials, the floods affected nearly 15% of Pakistan’s rice crop and 40% of its cotton crop. The country could face severe food shortages.
- The International Organization for Migration says the floods have displaced nearly 10 million people.
- The Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan was jointly launched on Aug. 30 by the government of Pakistan and the UN. The Plan seeks $160.3 million to provide humanitarian assistance to 5.2 million people.
- Officials estimate that the flooding has caused total or partial damage to at least 2 million houses across the country.
- UN and humanitarian partners have reached more than 1.6 million people with humanitarian assistance.
- Flood damages are expected to total more than $30 billion, triple that of an earlier estimate $10 billion.
- As of Aug. 25, Pakistan received nearly 15 inches (375 millimeters) of rainfall, almost three times higher than the national 30-year average of 5 inches (130 millimeters). Balochistan province has received five times its average 30-year rainfall.
According to the Education Sector Working Group, the large-scale destruction of school facilities has interrupted the education of more than 3.5 million children. Floods have damaged approximately 23,900 schools.
More than 5,000 schools are being used to accommodate displaced people, meaning they are not being used for ongoing access to education and protection for children. The floods hit just as the country was preparing to start the new academic year, affecting thousands of children.
Livelihoods and agriculture
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the flooding has affected more than 4.4 million crop acres. Sindh province is most heavily impacted, with 3.4 million crop acres affected. At least 1.1 million livestock have been killed since mid-June, with severe repercussions on the livelihoods of affected households and the supply of animal products, including milk and meat.
According to officials, the floods affected nearly 15% of Pakistan’s rice crop and 40% of its cotton crop. Floodwaters wiped out the personal grain stores that many farming families rely on for food yearlong. In southern Sindh province, the second largest wheat producer, some 50% of the fields remain underwater, according to Jam Khan Shoro, a provincial irrigation minister in Sindh.
Already concerning was the uptick in inflation based on the consumer price index, which increased in July 2022 by 4.35% compared to June 2022 and increased by 24.93% over July 2021. In July 2022, prices increased for all monitored staple cereals, including wheat. In some parts of Pakistan, the price of a kilogram of rice has reportedly risen by nearly 80% since January 2022.
Sindh province accounts for nearly one-quarter of the country’s agricultural output, so the damage to crops there and reduced harvests may have implications for food security in Pakistan. The loss of crops and livestock could push families under pressure further into poverty.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), “An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis of 28 highly vulnerable districts in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa found that some 5.96 million people in the assessed districts are estimated to be in IPC Phase 3 (crisis) and 4 (emergency) between July and November 2022 – a figure expected to increase to 7.2 million people from December 2022 to March 2023.”
Worsening the humanitarian situation is the significant damage to roads, bridges and telecommunications across the country. The floods have damaged more than 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of roads and 375 bridges, hampering people’s ability to seek safety and reach markets. The floods also caused “unprecedented damage” to Pakistan’s rail network. Pakistan Railways is losing around $385,025 (90 million rupees) daily due to the monsoon rains and flash floods.
Internet outages have been reported, with the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority attributing the cuts to faults in the fiberoptic network resulting from the floods. Flash floods and landslides are compounded by the inability of existing infrastructure to cope with the extraordinary amount of water.
Water infrastructure has suffered significant damage, and the flood-affected health system is impaired in addressing and mitigating the risk of a major public health crisis.
As of Sept. 22, the floods have caused total or partial damage to at least 2 million houses, a staggering statistic. The most affected province is Sindh, with 1.8 million homes fully or partially damaged.
Health officials are warning of large-scale disease outbreaks following the flooding. They are very concerned about the potential spread of waterborne diseases, which will further strain health facilities.
A lack of access to clean water is driving the severe risk of diarrhea and dysentery. The Sindh province health minister has stated the government setup more than 4,000 medical camps for people suffering from skin conditions and waterborne diseases.
At least 3,830 cases of dengue fever have been reported by health officials in southern Sindh province, with at least nine deaths. Officials fear the figures do not reveal the true extent of the situation and that cases will rise. The UN said malaria, typhoid and diarrhea cases were spreading quickly, with 44,000 cases of malaria reported the week of Sept. 19 in the southern province alone.
Aadarsh Leghari, UNICEF’s communication officer in Pakistan, told CNN, “There are no mosquito nets. It’s the mosquitoes that are bringing in malaria and disease. The other is cholera… it’s like a plethora of disease coming out of these floodwater lakes. This is going to turn into a bigger health crisis.”
Also worrying is that almost 650,000 women in flood-affected areas need maternity services, but damage to health facilities, limited medical supplies and challenges reaching functioning facilities prevents some women from getting the care they need. UNOCHA says more than 1,460 public health facilities have been damaged.
The wild poliovirus has paralyzed another child in southern North Waziristan, Pakistan’s 18th case in 2022. The government is concerned about the spread of the wild poliovirus as millions of people are displaced due to the flooding.
One of three strategic objectives in the Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan is to “prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases and effectively monitor risks to the health of the affected population, including the nutrition status of vulnerable people such as pregnant and lactating women and children under five years of age.”
The Education Sector Working Group has prioritized the following activities for a six-month response to address the immediate education needs in flood-affected districts:
- Establishment of temporary learning centers or alternate learning modalities in flood-affected districts.
- Distribution of teaching and learning materials.
- Dewatering, cleaning and disinfection of schools to facilitate the resumption of educational activities.
- Conduct welcome back to schools activities to enroll children.
- Training of teachers on psychosocial support, multi-grade teaching and teaching in emergencies.
- Training and mobilization of School Management Committee members.
- Activation of cross-sectoral arrangements with WASH, Child Protection and Health Clusters.
The primary challenge in meeting education needs is resource constraints. A secondary challenge is the use of schools for non-education purposes, including hosting displaced people.
The most critical need is unrestricted cash donations. Millions of people lost everything in the flooding and landslides. Direct cash assistance can allow families to purchase items and services locally that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is tailored, relevant and timely. Cash assistance can also help move families faster towards rebuilding their lives.
The extent of damage to houses and the most recently completed rapid needs assessment results show that most of the affected population need rental cash assistance. Provision of cash-for-work to remove debris and repair homes is another need and response strategy. Cash assistance is also needed to rehabilitate or create the infrastructure necessary for specific livelihood activities such as irrigation channels, fishing boats or rural roads.
The Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan complements the Pakistan government’s broader response activities, such as the individual cash assistance provided through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), and focuses on supporting the most vulnerable communities with cash transfers. As of Sept. 23, the BISP has reached over 1.25 million flood-affected households with cash assistance of $105 (PKR 25,000) per household.
Food security and agriculture support
Aas of Aug. 26, approximately 73% of affected households are estimated to have inadequate resources to buy food. Targeted food assistance for the most at-risk populations is needed, along with cash assistance to help with the restoration of livelihood opportunities.
The protection of remaining livestock through the provision of feed and vaccinations is critical. Damages to vital infrastructure and other restrictions affect humanitarian’s ability to distribute food and other supplies, demonstrating the value of cash assistance. Support is also required for scaling up food assistance in districts with needs but not declared worst-hit districts.
An IPC analysis of 28 highly vulnerable districts in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa found that some 5.96 million people in the assessed districts are estimated to be in IPC Phase 3 (crisis) and 4 (emergency) between July and November 2022. The World Food Programme is aiming to reach 1.9 million people with high levels of food insecurity – Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) phases 3 (crisis) and 4 (emergency) – across affected districts with food assistance.
The most recent rapid needs assessment conducted in 10 districts of Balochistan province highlighted the key protection concerns of communities, which included theft, robberies and looting, threats, separated families, inter-communal disputes, gender-based violence and increases in child marriage.
Around 500,000 people displaced by the floods live in relief camps, with much more living with host families. Safe spaces are needed, especially in areas of displacement, to ensure children and young people can receive child protection services and psychosocial support.
The UN’s reproductive health agency estimates there are nearly 650,000 pregnant women in flood-affected areas. According to CARE Pakistan Country Director Adil Sheraz, “When disasters like this hit, we know from experience that it’s women, girls and other marginalised groups who face the biggest challenges.”
HelpAge International warned that thousands of older people are not receiving the help they need and called on the government and humanitarian partners to ensure older people are consulted and their needs are addressed. According to HelpAge International, approximately 16 million older people are in Pakistan, and only 2.5% of the country’s population receives a pension, making the disaster particularly challenging for older people.
In the short-term, core relief items will be needed, including tents, sleeping mats and mosquito nets. Providing shelter kits and materials for rehabilitating damaged houses must be a priority from the beginning and will assist families with restoring their houses. Technical capacity for assessing the structural integrity of damaged and potentially hazardous houses will also be required.
There is insufficient funding to meet the scale of house damage. With nearly 10 million people displaced, significant resources are required to provide emergency shelter and assist with shelter self-recovery, repair and reconstruction.
Implementation of shelter strategies according to the Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan should include the following:
- Cash and vouchers should be considered options when markets can support demand.
- Distributions must be accessible to all vulnerable groups.
- Shelter materials that can be reused in early recovery are encouraged.
- Gender considerations must be made in decision-making.
- Information campaigns need to be conducted to explain policies to flood-affected people.
Public infrastructure damage may hamper people’s ability to reach health care, so ensuring access to these services is important. In addition to securing essential medicines and equipment to treat injured people, efforts to mitigate the risk of outbreaks of communicable and infectious diseases are critical, particularly in camps and where water, sanitation and hygiene facilities were damaged. Strengthening and expanding disease surveillance, outbreak prevention and control is a high priority.
Other critical needs identified in the Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan include:
- Provision for outreach services for healthcare and reproductive health services
- Support for need-based immunization campaigns.
- Repairs to damaged health facilities.
- Community awareness on health issues, including reproductive health.
According to UNOCHA, a crucial gap and challenge is “Responding to the acute needs of the flood-affected population while ensuring the continuation of regular Health services, including prevention and treatment of measles, COVID-19 and polio.” Psychosocial support for people affected by the disaster, particularly those who have experienced significant loss, will be needed.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has a Global Recovery Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by global crises.
(Photo: Rescue activities in flood-affected areas in South Punjab, Pakistan. Credit: Punjab Emergency Services via Twitter)
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Philanthropic and government support
The government of Pakistan is leading the humanitarian response, with support from UN agencies and humanitarian partners. The government has already reached over 1.25 million flood-affected households with cash assistance of $105 (PKR 25,000) per household under the Benazir Income Support Programme, a government program that provides cash transfers to women and their families from the poorest households across the country.
As of Aug. 26, the UN had already mobilized $7 million for its response to the floods, and on Aug. 30 the body issued a Flash Appeal for $160 million to support the response. According to UNOCHA, donors have funded 52.4% ($84 million) of the Flash Appeal.
On Sept. 12, UNOCHA released a Business Brief summarizing the humanitarian situation and providing recommendations for how the private sector can help. Recommendations include aligning activities with the Pakistan 2022 Flood Response Plan, making financial contributions, making an in-kind donation of goods or services and lending their voice to highlight the needs in Pakistan.
On Aug. 23, the European Union announced it is providing nearly $350,000 (350,000 euros) for humanitarian assistance in the country, and on Aug. 26, it announced an additional $1.8 million (1.8 million euros) in humanitarian assistance. The Asian Development Bank approved a $3 million grant to support the government’s relief efforts.
On Sept. 27, the U.S. announced an additional $10 million in aid for the flood relief efforts. This figure is on top of the $56.1 million already announced by the U.S. Canada announced on Aug. 29 $5 million in funding for humanitarian assistance. On Sept. 1, the United Kingdom announced humanitarian support totaling more than $17 million (15 million GBP).
As of Sept. 18, Australia’s total humanitarian response to the floods was $3.35 million (AUD 5 million). Thailand’s government provided more than $188,000 (7 million baht) to support humanitarian efforts, and Thai civil society provided a further $377,969 (14 million baht).
In addition to government and UN responses, individuals and charities in Pakistan have mobilized to support flood-affected people. Additionally, local communities have taken in people displaced from their homes and have participated in search-and-rescue efforts. Around 90 national non-governmental organizations have provided humanitarian assistance.
More ways to help
As with most disasters, experts recommend cash donations, which allow on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.
CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:
- Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and while recovery efforts can begin immediately, funding will be needed throughout.
- All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding these target populations or thematic areas.
- Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities.
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