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Story Publication logo January 7, 2023

Disaster Aid Running Out As Pakistan Struggles To Recover From 2022 Floods


People wade through shin-high water

As more than 1500 died and 33 million were displaced from an area larger than Britain, Pakistan's...

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Video by PBS NewsHour. Pakistan.

Millions in Pakistan remain displaced from last summer’s devastating floods, which left one-third of the country underwater. On Monday, the U.N. and Pakistan will host a conference in Geneva with the goal of raising more funds to help survivors. Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from hard-hit Sindh province, while Masood Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., joins John Yang to discuss.

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John Yang: Months after devastating floods left more than 1700 people dead and a third of the country underwater, Pakistan is still struggling to recover. U.N. officials warned that millions remain displaced from their homes and livelihoods as winter sets in. The crisis, they say, will only deepen without more help. NewsHour Special Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on the desperate conditions in hard hit Sindh province. His reporting was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

Fred de Sam Lazaro: The monsoon rains last year were like nothing anyone had seen before.

Mohammad Ayub, Flood Victim (through translator): The water came and swept away houses. We need help.

Fred de Sam Lazaro: An early spring ushered in a record-breaking heat wave. In some areas, temperatures topped 123 degrees. Warming global temperatures have also fueled unprecedented glacial melt that has swelled rivers. And when the record setting monsoon arrived, it dropped nearly twice as much rain as the 30-year average across the country.

Rehan Ali, Flood Victim (through translator): I don't have anything to feed my family. I lost everything.

Fred de Sam Lazaro: The violent swell swept away hundreds of thousands of homes and obliterated hospitals, schools and major infrastructure.

Tofiq Pasha Muraj, Environmental Activist: It's been leveled out, everything. We've had in a huge number of dams which broke down, which did not sustain the flow of water. Road networks, hundreds of kilometers of roads have been wiped out.

Fred de Sam Lazaro: So, you've seen a lot of change here?

Scientists and environmental activists like Tofiq Pasha Muraj, who's worked with the NewsHour on our reporting trips to Pakistan, point to climate change as another factor.

Tofiq Pasha Muraj: Things have gone totally out of sync. Our winters have become shorter. Summers therefore have become much broader, hotter. The rains have been more severe. We have major issues with growing our crops.

Fred de Sam Lazaro: Five months since the floods, the water remains. Pakistan has made only scant contributions to carbon dioxide emissions. But this nation is one of the world's most vulnerable to climate extremes. Pakistan led the way at the U.N. climate conference COP27 last November, pushing for the Loss and Damage Fund to help developing nations cope. The cash-strapped government was already facing a serious financial crisis before the floods, which caused an estimated $40 billion in damage.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General United Nations: Let us all step up in solidarity and support to the people of Pakistan in their hour of need.

Fred de Sam Lazaro: But by last month, the U.N. was only able to raise about a third of the $816,000,000 it sought for relief.

No Name Given (through translator): Who helps the poor? Everyone comes, takes pictures and goes.

Fred de Sam Lazaro: And the U.N.'s World Food Program, which serves some 2.7 million Pakistanis, says it will run out of funds in the next few weeks. For "PBS News Weekend," I'm Fred de Sam Lazaro in Sindh Province, Pakistan.

John Yang: On Monday, the United Nations and Pakistan are to host a one-day international conference in Geneva with the goal of raising about half the $16 billion needed to help survivors and to rebuild.

Masood Khan is Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States. Mr. Khan, thank you very much for joining us. How dire is the need right now in Pakistan? Give us the — we saw some of the pictures, but how bad is the need?

Masood Khan, Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S.: The situation is very bad. As a matter of fact, there's a misperception that the two phases of relief and recovery are over. They aren't over. I mean, we need immediate humanitarian assistance, but we also need dire assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction. So, this was the worst climate disaster in Pakistan and one of the worst climate disasters in the world. So, we are living with the consequences of that climate induced disaster and we need the help of the international community. The needs are dire.

John Yang: We heard the woman in the tape say that everyone comes, takes pictures and goes. Do you feel the global community has moved on, has forgotten about what the situation is?

Masood Khan: Yes. The world communities' attention was at its peak in September or October 2022. But then the attention of the world community, world leaders were diverted. I mean, there's Ukraine. There's attention to the Asia Pacific region. There are disasters around the world, and there's also this short attention span in the media. We are trying our best to manage the situation. We have mobilized all our resources, but we need the help of the international community, particularly for this year.

John Yang: We've seen stories coming out of Islamabad that government officials of your government say that they're concerned that this funding conference on Monday will fall short. Why is that?

Masood Khan: Well, one is donor fatigue as a matter of fact and there are many competing priorities. The other thing is that the world has seen many crises. For instance, there was a COVID-19 pandemic followed by fuel and food hyper inflation all over the world. But still, we are hoping that under the leadership of the United Nations, United Nations Secretary General and with the convening power of states like the United States we would be able to get some support.

You know, these pledges that have made at the conferences, they do not materialize speedily. That's one of the problems. So, we hope that this time we would be able to get pledges for the bulk of the requirements on needs that we have for rehabilitation, reconstruction. And we need this assistance in the next three years to build our infrastructure, climate resilient infrastructure and to preserve what we already have.

John Yang: How satisfied are you with the U.S. response? Not only what the U.S. is doing itself but sort of galvanizing support around the world?

Masood Khan: Well, we are grateful to the United States for giving very generous and prompt response to the humanitarian needs in the initial phase of relief and recovery. They contributed about $97 million within a span of a few weeks and then the American citizenry was very helpful. I mean they stepped forward, responded to the climate disaster in Pakistan.

Now, the United States has three roles, basically. One is direct contribution and we hope that they would be able to make that and announce a substantial contribution to our endeavor in Geneva. Second is their convening power, convening power with other governments and with the international financial institutions because United States has influence all over the world. And the third is that it would be a partner in our climate resilient efforts.

John Yang: We noted in the piece also that Pakistan was one of the leaders in pushing at the recent climate conference for the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund to help mitigate the damages that smaller nations are suffering from the greenhouse gas outputs of the richer and more industrialized nations. There have been similar pledges that didn't materialize. How confident are you that this one is going to play out?

Masood Khan: Well, let's remain hopeful. I mean, the first barrier has been removed. We have made a decision and the international community has made a decision to create this Loss and Damage Fund. This is an achievement in itself, but the fund itself has to be funded. I mean, you need to raise finances, and you have to persuade all the governments — the rich governments, the governments which are prospering because of the use of fossil fuels and so on. And then the real objective is to help the vulnerable countries like Pakistan to transition to move away from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy. I mean, these are the objectives. So, we will have to repurpose international communities resources to support this fund.

John Yang: Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan, thank you very much.

Masood Khan: Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure to talk to you.


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