In the midst of Pakistan’s “climate devastation,” the head of the UN sees “great heights” of human endurance and valour

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In the midst of Pakistan's "climate devastation," the head of the UN sees "great heights" of human endurance and valour

  • Reported by Francisca Oliveira
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

New York: Before flying over some of the worst-affected regions on his way to Balochistan, where he spoke with locals, some of whom had been personally hit by the floods, the UN head landed in Sindh province. Since mid-June, the nation has been battered by nearly constant monsoon rain, flash flooding, and rain-induced landslides, which have caused many people to lose their loved ones, houses, and everything they possessed.

According to the United Nations, more than 1,300 people have died, tens of millions of people are now homeless, one-third of this enormous country is underwater, and cattle and crops have all been wiped away. An estimated 3.5 million children’s education and learning have been disrupted, including at least 61 refugee schools.

“I have witnessed numerous global humanitarian catastrophes, but this level of climatic devastation is unprecedented. As he wrapped up his field trips, Mr Guterres told reporters, “I have no words to express what I have witnessed today: a flooded area three times the total size of my own country, Portugal.

He emphasised that while he had been moved by the “unquantifiable depths of human sorrow” he had observed, he had also witnessed “great heights of human fortitude and heroism – from emergency professionals to ordinary people aiding their neighbours.”

Mr Guterres flew from Islamabad to Sukkur in Sindh on Saturday morning in company with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. On Saturday night, his visit was close in Karachi when he and the foreign minister gave a joint press conference at the airport.

Speaking on the tarmac, they were accompanied by a recently delivered assistance package from the UNHCR, which is en route to assist the affected people.

The Secretary-General commended Pakistan’s national and local civilian and military authorities for their substantial response efforts.

I also want to thank the members of the civil society, the aid organisations, and my UN colleagues who rushed in, he continued. I also want to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the donors who have begun to support Pakistan during this dreadful time.

For this reason, “I urge large and urgent financial support for Pakistan. The needs are enormous. Additionally, it goes beyond a simple test of charity or solidarity. The issue is one of justice.

In his speech, Foreign Minister Zardari noted that the Secretary-General had visited Pakistan “at a difficult period and personally observed the destruction inflicted by the terrible monsoon rains that we experienced for many months.”

He emphasised that Pakistan was not to blame for the crisis and that a global reaction was also necessary.

Displaced and in need

As the UN and Pakistani officials flew over the nation’s southern regions, scenes of the inundated fields were evident; flood devastation and high waters extended as far as the eye could reach.

The Secretary-General met with local officials, residents who are now homeless, first responders, and “selfless” neighbours who hurried to help when the floodwaters rose, in addition to seeing the damage firsthand.

Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh province, provided a bleak picture of the scope of the catastrophe at the airport in Sukkur. He claimed that “all the rural districts on both sides of the River Indus… have been damaged.” “We know that fewer than 10,000 people were hurt, fewer than 600 people died, and roughly 12 million people were affected.”

He continued by saying that right now, the emphasis was on humanitarian supplies, such as tents and mosquito nets, to aid people who were displaced.

Perwin, a newborn born in Usta Muhammad, Balochistan, is introduced to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Secretary-General António Guterres. Perwin, who was just a few weeks old, and his mother were forced to flee Pakistan’s disastrous floods.

One of the worst-hit areas is the Sukkur region, severely affected by the floods in 2010 and 2011.

Although there had been fatalities, property damage, and livelihood losses, Mr Guterres claimed that he had conveyed to the Pakistani official that there was still hope.

From the Sukkur airport in Sindh to the next destination in Usta Muhammad in Baluchistan, the images of destruction were equally striking. During the roughly 25-minute helicopter ride between the two locations, there was hardly any evidence of activity in the regions that were once home to people who were now just homeless.

The gruesome accounts of the refugees in Usta Muhammed were relayed to the Secretary-General, the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. One of them was a man who had a goat and lived on the city’s outskirts but had lost everything in the floods.

A woman who spoke about her health concerns and another who had given birth to a newborn boy named Perwin while still in her tent bed were people he met. As Mr Guterres cradled the infant and enquired about her health, she grinned.

In this region of Pakistan, the temperature is almost 100 degrees (38 Celsius). Although the heat can be intolerable, there is little the occupants can do. The tents have fans, and small children were receiving schooling in a UNICEF-allocated tent. High-ranking representatives from the UN and the government paid close attention to the stories and aspirations of these impacted people.

Following the disastrous floods that struck the nation, Secretary-General António Guterres and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan pay a visit to displaced persons in Usta Muhammad, Balochistan Province.

Mohenjo-Daro was the next destination. Another region that flooding has affected. The Secretary-General and government representatives met with refugees. Tents were set up on the barriers as people hurriedly attempted to dodge the fear of rising water on the approach to their congested colony.

Families and women who said they lost everything spoke with Mr Guterres. “I am here to beg the whole globe to provide huge support to Pakistan,” he told them.

A nearby hospital was also visited by the Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Bhutto Zardari. They spoke with first responders, nurses, female doctors, and bystanders who had rushed to aid the affected areas.

As a mother of three, Dr Sumeira Abasi, a field medical officer, noted that the situation was difficult for her since she had been visiting the hospital since the flooding started. She continued to come here to serve my people; this is my passion.

Amna Khatoon, a Lady Health Worker (LHW), has been assisting since her house fell after the storm. She told UN News that although there was plenty of water, she supported expectant mothers by giving them nutrition and other care. “We were using local boats to evacuate the folks because there were no road communications.”

At the risk of his own life, approximately 300 persons were saved from the slums by Mr Muhammad Shifa Arijo, Secretary of Union Council Anwar Adab, Larkana, at the risk of his own life to assist in their transfer to Quaid Awam Engineering University. Additionally, he was charged with providing daily food deliveries to hundreds of flood victims.

“This incredible generosity of poor people has struck me deeply,” the Secretary-General stated at the press conference in Karachi. “I hope this example will be followed by all those in the world who have the power to support Pakistan in this hour of need.”

Visit a historic location.

According to UNESCO, the archaeological ruins at Mohenjo-Daro are the best-preserved urban settlement in South Asia and date to the third millennium BC.

The Secretary-General went to Mohenjo Daro, a flood-affected UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is only a short drive from the hospital.

According to UNESCO, the archaeological ruins at Mohenjo-Daro are the best-preserved urban settlement in South Asia and date to the third millennium BC. The remains are found in Larkana District, Sindh Province, on the right bank of the Indus River, 510 kilometres northeast of Karachi and 28 kilometres from Larkana city.

The head of the United Nations visited the historic site while donning an “Ajrak,” a traditional headdress used in the Sindh region.

Facilities for humanitarian assistance

The Government of Pakistan requested the establishment of the network of warehouses known as the Humanitarian Response Facilities (HRF) of the World Food Programme (WFP). To decentralise support for and react to relief efforts among provinces, the nation has eight HRFs. In Sukkur, the HRF was finished in 2016. It can hold 3.200 mt and has a facility area of 10 acres.

According to resident coordinator Julien Harneis, HRF was crucial during this tragedy since “people would have received assistance months later” without the warehouses and inventories.

Despite the catastrophe’s enormous scope, he continued, “we need to be thinking about how to better engage with first responders, how to better cooperate with local governments, organisations, and the civil society, that’s one element. So, we need to be establishing other models for the future.”

Pakistan is paying the price for other people’s misdeeds

Mr Guterres claimed in Karachi that human activity-caused climate change is escalating storms and natural disasters not just in Pakistan but also in Chad, the Horn of Africa, where a catastrophic drought and the threat of hunger exist, and elsewhere.

“All these nations bear the burden even though they contributed nothing to the issue.”

According to him, the use of fossil fuels, which heats our globe, is to blame for these extreme weather events.

He reminded us that developed economies have historically produced the great majority of greenhouse gases and that the G20 countries are responsible for 80% of today’s emissions – 1%, 80%.

“From Pakistan, I want to reiterate an obvious point: Wealthier countries have a moral obligation to support developing nations like Pakistan in their efforts to recover from catastrophes of this nature and to adapt and build resilience to climate impacts that, regrettably, will occur again in the future.

He pointed out that Pakistan is paying for something that other people developed.

“Pakistan is the topic now. He said wherever you live; it might be your country tomorrow, adding that unless the 1.5C global warming limit is assured, “we run the risk of making it irreversibly impossible.” With the G20 leading the way, nations must increase their national emissions reduction targets every year.

Living in regions with high levels of climatic vulnerability, such as South Asia, increases the risk of death from climate-related causes by 15 times. Today, almost half of humanity falls into this group, with the vast majority living in developing nations.

Rich countries must increase adaptation money as Pakistan is inundated and starvation grips the Horn of Africa.

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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