UN chief warns of public health disaster in flood-hit Pakistan

Risk of cholera outbreak, malaria and dengue fever threaten to claim far more lives than floods, says Antonio Guterres.

UN chief warns of public health disaster in flood-hit Pakistan

Pakistan is on the verge of a public health disaster after the devastating floods, the UN secretary-general warned on Friday, as the world body now seeks $816 million to help the South Asian nation, a surge of $656 million from the initial appeal.

The devastation caused by unprecedented rains and floods in Pakistan last month claimed nearly 1,700 lives.

"The people of Pakistan are the victims of a grim calculus of climate injustice," Antonio Guterres told the UN General Assembly. "While the rains may have ceased and water is beginning to recede, many areas in the south of Pakistan remain inundated."

He said the situation is going from bad to worse as winter approaches in Pakistan.

"The risk of a cholera outbreak, malaria and dengue fever threaten to claim far more lives than the floods," Guterres said. "These cascading calamities in Pakistan can linger for years to come."

He urged donor countries and international financial institutions to fully support recovery efforts as the UN and Pakistan are working to convene a pledging conference.

Torrential rains -- 10 times heavier than usual -- have damaged nearly 45% of the country's cropland, posing a serious threat to the country's food security.

The government has estimated a staggering loss of about $30 billion inflicted by the catastrophe on the already tottering economy, mainly in terms of infrastructure and agriculture.

Preliminary estimates by the World Bank suggest that as a direct consequence of the floods, the national poverty rate could potentially increase by 4.5% to reach 7% points, pushing between 9.9 million and 15.4 million people into poverty and intensifying the depth and severity of poverty for already poor households.

Hüseyin Demir

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