The UN and Pakistan's government on Tuesday issued a flash appeal for $160 million to cope with the devastation caused by unprecedented rains and floods in the South Asian country, which also claimed nearly 1,200 people’s lives.
The appeal was jointly issued by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during a ceremony in the capital Islamabad.
Guterres, in his video message played at the ceremony, said the required amount would be disbursed to provide food, water, sanitation, emergency education, protection and health support to 5.2 million flood victims during the first six months of the crisis response.
The aid will also help prevent outbreaks of cholera and provide food to mothers and their young children.
“Pakistan is awash in suffering. The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” the UN secretary-general added.
Guterres described the recent floods, which have inundated nearly half of Pakistan, as a "climate catastrophe," noting that South Asia is one of the world's "climate crisis hotspots."
People living in these hotspots are 15 times more likely to die as a consequence of the changing climate, he warned.
In his remarks, Zardari asked for the international community's help in dealing with the massive challenge posed by the historic floods, which have destroyed or damaged over a million homes as well as hundreds of roads and bridges across the country.
The "super floods" have been described as a "climate calamity" by Islamabad's top diplomat, who fears that more rains will worsen the situation in already flooded areas.
The scale of destruction is feared to increase that of the 2010 "mega or super floods," which submerged a fifth of the country's land and killed over 2,000 people, he added.
Some72 districts, according to Zardari, have been declared “calamity-hit, with 33 million people affected – which is the size of a small country.
“Over 1,000 people have lost their lives and several others were grappling with the loss of livelihoods and displacement,” he said.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and forced to spend days and nights … under a merciless sky and (a) lack of access to food, water and shelter are making life harder with each passing day,” he added.
Stressing the need to expand and scale up the ongoing relief efforts and response, Zardari said: “The appeal prioritizes focused interventions in areas of education; food security and agriculture; health; nutrition; protection; shelter and non-food items; and water, sanitation and hygiene.”
“We also need assistance with livelihoods and livestock support as well as relief machinery and equipment,” he added.