Pakistan’s 2022 monsoon season produced significant rainfall, devastating floods and landslides, affecting millions of people.
The floods affected all four of the country’s provinces and approximately 15% of its population. At the beginning of 2023 and several months after the worst of the flooding, an estimated 5 million people remained exposed to or living close to flooded areas. In Sindh Province, an estimated 89,000 people remain displaced from their homes.
Not all floodwaters have receded, combined with the onset of winter and severe cold this shows the importance of meeting critical immediate needs while investing in recovery to prevent additional disaster impacts and help people rebuild their lives. Key priorities include shelter, food security, health, education and winterization support.
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.” Despite being responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan is among the countries worst affected by extreme weather events due to climate change.
Pakistani authorities say the devastation from the 2022 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.
During his visit to flood-affected areas in September 2022, 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.
(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. Despite investing in disaster risk management following the 2010 floods, Pakistan’s systems and institutions were not adequately equipped for the unprecedented scale of this climate-induced disaster.
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.
Reparations, or “loss and damage” funding, was formally adopted onto the COP 27 climate summit agenda for the first time, after being proposed by Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told CNBC that catastrophic flooding in the country reaffirms the need for wealthy countries to deliver on reparations.
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. Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the country would ask for billions in new loans to rebuild the country while insisting Pakistan is not trying to reschedule its external debt. In early December 2022, the State Bank of Pakistan announced its foreign exchange reserves had fallen to its lowest level in nearly four years. The announcement comes as the country is in need of foreign aid.
The government of Pakistan’s Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework was released on Jan. 6 and will guide the country’s recovery and reconstruction efforts. According to the framework, “Simultaneous, multiple shocks, including natural hazards, COVID-19, rising inflation, an energy crisis, and fiscal challenges continue to compound the impacts. Underlying political and economic instability is exacerbating the disaster impacts and undermining recovery. Resilient and adaptable infrastructure, communities and governance are critical to breaking the nation’s cycle of climate-induced disaster and poverty.”
- Since the monsoon season began in mid-June, floods have affected at least 33 million people and killed at least 1,739 as of Nov. 18.
- 20.6 million people require humanitarian assistance.
- According to the post-disaster needs assessment, the flooding caused $14.9 billion in damages and $15.2 billion in economic losses. Estimated needs for rehabilitation and reconstruction in a resilient way are at least $16.3 billion.
- Multidimensional poverty could potentially increase by 5.9 percentage points, meaning that an additional 1.9 million households are at risk of being pushed into poverty.
- The food security situation of an estimated additional 1.1 million people is deteriorating and is forecast to fall into IPC 4 (emergency food security phase) between January-March 2023. In early December, more than 5.1 million people were experiencing IPC 4 conditions in flood-affected areas.
- More than 1.2 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 floods displaced at least 7.9 million people. In Sindh province, more than 89,000 people remain displaced as of Jan. 2, down from 6.5 million in early September.
- The Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan was jointly launched on Aug. 30 by the government of Pakistan and the UN. A revised Floods Response Plan was released on Oct. 4 and seeks $816 million to provide humanitarian assistance to 9.5 million people.
- More than 2.1 million homes have been damaged or destroyed by the floods.
- As of Dec. 30, humanitarian partners had provided assistance to an estimated 5.74 million people, including 5.5 million people in the food security and agriculture sector.
- 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 received five times its average 30-year rainfall.
According to the Pakistan Education Sector Working Group, the large-scale destruction of school facilities has interrupted the education of 3.5 million children. As of Oct. 20, floods have damaged or destroyed 26,632 schools in the country.
As of late October, an estimated 7,602 schools were being used to accommodate displaced people, meaning they are not being used for ongoing access to education and protection for children. Standing water and submergence of some schools prevent complete assessments of the damages incurred and the restoration of schools and learning centers. 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), some 9.4 million acres of crop area in Pakistan were potentially inundated in August, including 4.8 million acres in Sindh, 2.7 million acres in Punjab, 1.2 million acres in Balochistan and 714,000 acres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. At least 1.2 million livestock have been killed, 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.
Already concerning was the uptick in inflation based on the consumer price index, which according to the World Food Programme, “increased in August 2022 for the 8th consecutive month this year: 2.45% over July 2022; and 27.26% over August 2021, the highest in 47 years (since 1975).” 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.
The post-disaster needs assessment said poverty could potentially increase by 5.9 percentage points, meaning that an additional 1.9 million households are at risk of being pushed into poverty. In addition to impacts being felt by farmers and herders, Pakistan’s fishers are also struggling.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (UNOCHA)’s Dec. 6 situation report, “A recent need and gaps analysis by partners in the food security sector indicates a persistent and increasing need for emergency food assistance moving into the first quarter of 2023. A failure to address this need would worsen the already frail food security situation and drive more people into crisis and emergency levels.”
Worsening the humanitarian situation is the significant damage to roads, bridges and telecommunications across the country. The floods damaged more than 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of roads and 410 bridges, hampering people’s ability to seek safety and reach markets. Sindh province is the most affected, with 64% of the total road damage and 40% of the bridge damage nationwide. The floods also caused “unprecedented damage” to Pakistan’s rail network.
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. Damaged health infrastructure and inadequate water and sanitation have compounded the risk of measles and rubella, along with water-borne, skin, and acute respiratory illnesses.
The floods have caused total or partial damage to 2.1 million homes, a staggering statistic.
While compensation for deaths was paid quickly, in late October affected people were still waiting for repair and reconstruction aid. An example of the results of the enormous needs combined with very limited resources so far is that the Shelter Sector was forced to reduce shelter assistance to include just one tarpaulin per household, halving the normal international standards for humanitarian response. The precarious shelter conditions are complicated by the coming winter. Of the affected population, some 4 million live in provinces where the temperature falls below freezing.
According to UNOCHA’s Jan. 6 Situation Report, “IDPs [internally displaced persons] who are living in informal camps, self-settlement sites or in transitional shelters are more vulnerable to the cold weather. Returnees and people who remained in flood affected areas and who continue to live in partially damaged houses have bare minimums of basic insulation; their inadequacy to effectively face the cold season is often amplified by damaged leaking roofs, broken windows, cracked or collapsed perimetral walls.”
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.
According to a Jan. 9 update, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff “are seeing alarmingly high numbers of people with malaria and children with malnutrition among flood-affected communities in Sindh and eastern Balochistan provinces, Pakistan.”
According to the revised Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan, “Damage to drinking supply systems and more than 1,460 public health facilities and their contents have reduced access to safe and clean water and inhibited the provision of health services at a time of increased need. Women are disproportionately affected, as they typically bear the burden of tasks such as collecting water for daily household needs and caring for the sick.”
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. Stagnating water has provided breeding sites for mosquitos, resulting in an ongoing malaria outbreak in 32 districts.
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.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of early December, malaria, cholera, acute watery diarrheal diseases and dengue fever were declining in most flood-affected districts. “However, high malaria and cholera cases are still being reported in some pocket districts in Sindh and Balochistan where standing water remains. In November 2022, around 70 suspected cases of Diphtheria were reported from the flood-affected provinces of KP, Sindh, and Punjab.”
The floods have had a significant impact on health, particularly for children.
According to WHO, “Pakistan is among the top 10 countries in the world with a large pool of unvaccinated or undervaccinated children and is home to more than 600,000 children who have not received a single vaccine dose. The recent floods have compounded the problem, further reducing access to routine immunization services, especially in flood-affected districts.”
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. Experts fear an increase in infant mortality or health complications for mothers or children in a country that already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia. As of early November, approximately 136,950 births were expected in the next three months.
The wild poliovirus has paralyzed another child in southern North Waziristan, Pakistan’s 20th case in 2022. The government is concerned about the spread of the wild poliovirus as millions of people are displaced due to the flooding. On Sept. 28, partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and donors met in Islamabad to assess needs and discuss a path forward.
On Oct. 4, the World Health Organization Director General said, “An urgent and robust response, supported by sustainable funding, is needed to control the spread of outbreaks, to support routine immunization, to urgently address severe acute malnutrition, and to provide life-saving essential health services.”
The Education Sector Working Group has prioritized the following activities for the period between September 2022 and May 2023 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 as well as school and dignity kits
- Dewatering, cleaning and disinfection of schools to facilitate the resumption of educational activities.
- Minor repairs to damaged schools.
- Conduct welcome back to school activities.
- School feeding.
- Establishment of prefabricated structures in locations with fully damaged schools.
- Training of teachers on psychosocial support, multi-grade teaching and teaching in emergencies.
- Training and mobilization of School Management Committee members.
- Winterization kits.
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. In their Dec. 6 situation report, UNOCHA said education needs include: “de-watering, cleaning, and disinfection of schools to facilitate the resumption of educational activities in a safe and healthy learning environment; provision of winterization kits to affected children; training teachers on psychosocial support, multi-grade teaching and teaching in emergencies.”
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. Cash assistance should be prioritized to refugee and other marginalized households.
According to a rapid needs assessment of older people by HelpAge International, almost three-quarters of older people reported that they would be able to utilize cash assistance if it was provided. HelpAge International recommends that cash transfers be provided to older people when possible and safe to use because recipients can choose the items they need most.
The revised 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 Oct. 25, the BISP has reached over 2.7 million flood-affected households with cash assistance of $113 (PKR 25,000) per household.
Food security and agriculture support
Of the $816 million in funding requirements outlined in the revised Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan, $269.4 million is for the food security and agriculture sector, demonstrating the significant need. The Floods Response Plan identifies 14.6 million people in need of food security and agriculture assistance and targets 4 million. Targeted food assistance for the most at-risk populations is needed, along with cash assistance to help with the restoration of livelihood opportunities.
A need and gaps analysis by partners in the food security sector in the last quarter of 2022 indicates a persistent and increasing need for emergency food assistance moving into the first quarter of 2023. “A failure to address this need would worsen the already frail food security situation and drive more people into crisis and emergency levels.”
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.
For many households, livestock often serves as collateral for loans, including to finance the purchase of seeds for sowing crops. The loss of livestock and widespread crop damage thus present significant economic and food security repercussions. Also needed are seeds and fertilizers to cultivate vegetable crops and support the restoration of affected cropped areas before the upcoming agriculture cropping season.
Marginalized people, including refugees, people with disabilities, the elderly, transgender people, women and unaccompanied children, experience greater difficulties in accessing essential aid and services and are vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation at points of assistance.
In Sindh province, more than 89,000 people remain displaced as of Jan. 2, down from 6.5 million in early September. 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. The following are key findings from a HelpAge International rapid needs assessment of older people between Sept. 21 and 26 in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces:
- 69% of older people interviewed reported that they do not have shelter.
- Older people also reported struggling to access toilet facilities (63%) and bathing facilities (62%).
- 60% of older people interviewed reported that they did not have sufficient food.
- Almost half (48%) of older people reported they could not access health services.
- Between a quarter and half of older people said that they do not feel safe accessing their basic needs.
According to UNOCHA in their Nov. 11 Situation Report, “The need for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) is increasing as the limited access to basic goods and services adversely affects child well-being, including mental health needs for children and parents/caregivers.”
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.
With nearly 8 million people displaced, significant resources are needed to provide emergency shelter and assist with shelter self-recovery, repair and reconstruction. As of early January 2023, major shelter-related challenges include insufficient funding to meet the scale of house damage, limited technical local capacity for assessing the structural integrity of damaged houses, limited access due to standing water and issues with the transportation of essential items.
As described in the revised Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan, the Shelter and Non-Food Items sector will focus on “providing emergency shelter assistance, as well as technical assistance, cash for emergency shelter repairs and construction at return locations, essential household items, with a focus on winter support and support to coordination and management of temporary sites.”
In their Jan. 9 Situation Report, UNOCHA identified the following shelter and non-food item needs:
- Distribution of winterized NFIs.
- Emergency shelter, shelter kits and materials needed to rehabilitate damaged houses.
- Shelter/housing recovery intervention and capacity building for local communities.
- Displacement tracking and resource mapping.
- Tool kits to remove debris left by the floods.
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.
According to the revised Pakistan 2022 Floods Response Plan, the Health sector will prioritize “provision of lifesaving medicines and supplies; integrated outreach healthcare, including mobile health and nutrition; disease surveillance and outbreak support; strengthened referral mechanisms; and support to public sector health facilities. Inclusion of female staff in mobile and facility teams will be prioritised to ensure better access for women.”
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.
As of Nov. 8, just 9% of the $81.5 million WHO requires to respond to this health crisis has been received.
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
CDP, in partnership with Google, awarded $495,000 to Relief International UK in 2022 to support the most marginalized flood-affected communities in selected districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province by supporting recovery through restoring access to safe water and strengthening livelihoods. The project will mitigate risk and reduce the adverse impacts of adopting negative coping strategies among households.
The government of Pakistan is leading the humanitarian response, with support from UN agencies and humanitarian partners. As of Oct. 25, the government had reached over 2.7 million flood-affected households with cash assistance of $113 (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.
On Jan. 9, 2023, the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan was co-hosted by the government of Pakistan and the UN. Several donor countries made additional financial commitments to support flood recovery, including the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada.
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. A revised Floods Response Plan was released on Oct. 4 and seeks $816 million to provide humanitarian assistance to 9.5 million people. As of Dec. 16, donors had funded only 27.1% of the $816 million requested.
On Oct. 17, UNOCHA released an updated 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 (EU) said it was 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. On Oct. 4, the EU announced nearly $30 million (30 million euros) in new aid for Pakistan. The Asian Development Bank approved a $3 million grant to support the government’s relief efforts.
On Oct. 27, the U.S. announced an additional $30 million to support flood-affected people. The U.S. provided $97 million in disaster-related assistance to Pakistan in 2022. 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).
On Dec. 27, the Japan International Cooperation Agency announced the provision of 9,000 mosquito nets, 80,000 ORS and 400,000 water purification tablets to the flood-affected districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces.
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:
- Prioritize investments in local organizations: Local humanitarian leaders and organizations play a vital role in providing immediate relief and setting the course for long-term equitable recovery in communities after a disaster or crisis. However, these leaders and organizations are mostly under-resourced and underfunded. Grant to locally-led entities as much as possible. When granting to trusted international partners with deep roots in targeted countries, more consideration should be given to those that empower local and national stakeholders.
- 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.
Flooding is our nation’s most common natural disaster. Regardless of whether a lake, river or ocean is actually in view, everyone is at some risk of flooding. Flash floods, tropical storms, increased urbanization and the failing of infrastructure such as dams and levees all play a part — and cause millions (sometimes billions) of dollars in damage across the U.S. each year.
Emergency and Interim Shelter
After a disaster, shelter is more than a place to rest, it is a place of security, access to food, water and medical treatment. A place to start recovering after a disaster.
While often thought of as long-term heavy rain over a specific area, a monsoon is actually the name for a seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing winds. It can bring either extremely wet or extremely dry weather to an area.