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Floods in Pakistan: Global response and responsibilities

As more than half (54 percent) of the families hit by massive floods in the country are sleeping outside, in tents or makeshift shelters, often no more than flimsy plastic sheets, the catastrophe has rendered around 3.6 million workers jobless, badly impacting the livelihood of more than 33m people.

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Nations usually come across situations where national comfort is compromised and distress becomes inevitable. Pakistan is one such state where citizens often face such dilemmas and the current scenario is no different. The country that was already submerged in politico-economic turmoil is now facing nature’s wrath in the form of devastating floods. More than a third of Pakistan is drowned in floods that have cut down highways and turned towns into islands. The country is in dire need of assistance and developed states, especially the U.S., need to play an instrumental role in relief operations. So far, the global response to the calamity has been inadequate. However, a potent response to such climatic disasters (and climate change) is indispensable as floods relating to challenges that Pakistan is forced to face are extraordinary.

According to official estimates, floods have affected nearly 33 million people and have caused financial losses of around $30 billion. Pakistan is an agricultural country where the fertility of land means life to most people but today around 100,000 square miles of the country’s total land is covered in floodwater. The loss of crops and livestock, being lifelines for a large chunk of Pakistanis, has created a nightmare situation in the country.

Read more: Pakistan drowning in floods and debt – Dr. Farid A. Malik

Global Response

The UN Secretary General’s recent visit to Pakistan has been a source of some relief for the country. During his visit, the dignitary expressed solidarity with the people of the country and remarked that humanity has been waging war on nature and nature strikes back in Sindh that were not responsible for the emission of Green House Gas (GHG). The Secretary-General also highlighted that the world’s lack of attention toward climate change is a “collective suicide”. Meanwhile, the World Bank has also pledged $2 billion to support flood victims in Pakistan.

So far, multiple states have played their part in assisting Pakistan in flood relief efforts. Friendly states such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, China and Iran have provided Pakistan with flood relief assistance. Similarly, the U.S. has provided Pakistan with $66 million as flood relief aid to tackle the catastrophe. USAID is also focusing on the development of preventive measures such as WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) assistance to anticipate the spread of waterborne diseases. The U.S. embassy while expressing solidarity with Pakistan claimed that schools rebuilt with U.S. support (after the 2010 floods) are now being used as shelters for the wrecked. However, the assistance of this level, as also confessed by Senator Bob Menendez, is just a drop in the bucket.

GHG Emissions and Pakistan 

Climate change is not Pakistan’s fault and the world must support the country in rescue efforts. The developed countries are responsible for around half of the global Carbon Dioxide emissions and should, thus, accept the moral responsibility to help struggling states in fighting, tackling, managing and anticipating the challenges posed by climate change.

The U.S., being the sole superpower and the largest contributor to GHG emissions must bear the burden of responsibility as well. It has, so far, contributed the most with 24.6 percent and is currently responsible for 12.74 percent of the total GHG emissions. Great powers have behaved irresponsibly to tackle climate challenges but now is no time to waste as climate change has become an existential threat and mankind’s common enemy.

Also, considering the fact that Pakistan is responsible for less than 1 percent of the total GHG emissions (that have hastened climatic shifts at such an abnormal pace) the whole scenario appears highly unjust. Those who claim to be the flag bearers of morality and sanity must act fast and substantially as such are the instances that provide humanity with the opportunity to prove that morality is not limited to any race, region, religion, caste, or creed.

Read more: Angelina Jolie arrives in Pakistan to support people affected by floods

It is time that the U.S., while practicing her leadership role, starts focusing on two factors: 1- the development of apparatuses for the global transition towards renewable energy, 2- Playing a part in supporting states (like Pakistan) to mitigate the losses suffered due to climate carnage. Both these initiatives would not only benefit the world but also benefit the superpower in image building and improving soft power. Thus, while leading the world in the transition towards renewable energy should be the U.S’s long-term goal, focusing on supporting disaster-hit countries such as flood-afflicted Pakistan demands immediate attention (as it would highlight U.S’s commitment to serving humanity).

The losses that Pakistan is suffering are multiplying every day and would definitely haunt the country’s future development. Any state that assists Pakistan in these testing times shall win the hearts of the citizens living under miserable conditions. It is certain that powers such as the U.S. and China, with GDPs of trillions of dollars, have more potential than merely resorting to reactive and makeshift arrangements which, in absence of long-term solutions, would only be futile. Global stakeholders need to start doing more for the mitigation/prevention/management of such climatic catastrophes to convey a message that the world is united for humanity’s cause.

 

The writer works for PTV World and can be reached at @AmmarHS96. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.