Donors offer over $9 billion for Pakistan after devastating floods

The Pakistani government has announced plans for independent, outside monitors to make sure that the funds go where they are needed

Published - January 10, 2023 05:03 am IST - GENEVA:

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres attend a news conference, during a summit on climate resilience in Pakistan, months after deadly floods in the country, at the United Nations, in Geneva.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres attend a news conference, during a summit on climate resilience in Pakistan, months after deadly floods in the country, at the United Nations, in Geneva. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Dozens of countries and international institutions on Monday pledged more than $9 billion to help Pakistan recover and rebuild from devastating summer floods that the United Nations chief called “a climate disaster of monumental scale.”

The flooding killed more than 1,700 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes, and covered as much as one-third of the country at one point, causing damage totaling more than $30 billion, U.N. and Pakistani officials say. Large swaths of the country remain under water, with millions living near contaminated or stagnant waters, the U.N. says.

Wrapping up a day-long conference at the U.N. offices in Geneva, Pakistani Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the final tally came in above a target for the international community to meet half of an estimated $16.3 billion needed to respond to the flooding. The rest is expected to come from the Pakistani government itself.

Also read | Pakistan floods impacted nearly 16 million children: U.N.

“Taken as a whole, these commitments total more than $9 billion and from what we know so far, these are all additional commitments from what was already given in terms of humanitarian assistance, etc., from both bilateral and multilateral partners," she said, adding that a number of delegations had also offered up in-kind support.

U.N. pledging conferences often draw promises of big sums from governments, international organizations and other donors, but those don't always get fulfilled entirely. The Pakistani government has announced plans for independent, outside monitors to make sure that the funds go where they are needed.

Earlier, Pakistani Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb tweeted that top donors included the Islamic Development Bank, at $4.2 billion; the World Bank, at $2 billion; the Asian Development Bank, at $1.5 billion. She said the European Union had pledged $93 million, Germany $88 million, China $100 million, and Japan $77 million.

The United States announced another $100 million on top of a similar amount already committed to Pakistan. Saudi Arabia's envoy laid out a pledge of $1 billion.

The conference shaped up as a test case of just how much wealthy nations would pitch in to help developing-world countries like Pakistan manage the impact of climatic swoons, and brace for other disasters.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attended in-person and other world leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took part virtually.

“We need to be honest about the brutal injustice of loss and damage suffered by developing countries because of climate change," Guterres told the gathering. “If there is any doubt about loss and damage — go to Pakistan. There is loss. There is damage. The devastation of climate change is real.”

Guterres said that people in South Asia are 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts than elsewhere, and his “heart broke” when he saw the devastation left behind from Pakistan's floods.

“No country deserves to endure what happened to Pakistan,” he said. "But it was especially bitter to watch that country’s generous spirit being repaid with a climate disaster of monumental scale."

In November’s U.N. climate talks, countries agreed to set up a fund for loss and damage caused by climate change. The details of the fund will be worked out by a committee this year. Vulnerable nations like Pakistan would be expected to receive compensation from the fund.

Many scientists, policymakers and others say emissions of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, mostly by industrialized countries, over generations are largely to blame for a warming global climate.

Many countries already doled out cash, supplies and other support for Pakistan in the immediate follow-up to the flooding — and Monday's conference co-hosted by the U.N. and Pakistani government, and attended by 44 countries as well as many international organizations, aimed to complement and build on previous outlays.

Thousands of Pakistanis are still living in open areas in makeshift homes and tents near the stagnant water in southern Sindh and in some areas in southwestern Baluchistan, the two worst-flood hit provinces in Pakistan.

Julien Harneis, the U.N. resident coordinator in Pakistan, said an estimated 5 million people were living near the stagnant waters, making it difficult for residents to have a normal life. He predicted little change in the situation until March.

He praised those who announced pledges, but called for translating the pledges into funding so that the much-need humanitarian assistance could continue for the survivors.

According to the U.N. humanitarian agency UNICEF, only 37% of a $173.5 million target for supporting flood-affected Pakistani women and children has been met.

Prime Minister Sharif likened the flooding to “a tsunami from the sky.” He said the flooding immediately affected 33 million people and destroyed more than 2 million homes, adding that the ferocity of the flowing water damaged over 8,000 kilometers of roads (nearly 5,000 miles), and more than 3,100 kilometers of railway track.

“Today’s meeting is an attempt to give my people another chance at getting back on their feet,” Sharif said. “We are racing again time” to help the victims amid a harsh winter, and in the worst-affected areas where schools and health systems have collapsed, he added.

Alluding to a catchphrase often used in military contexts, he said: “Pakistan needs a new ‘coalition of the willing’: One that can save lives and put them on a path to responsible global citizenship.”

Pakistan played down initial expectations of big-ticket contributions, and has downgraded what was originally billed as a pledging conference to a “support” conference — in anticipation that not just funding will be offered up by donors.

Organizers hope the conference will underpin a recovery and build resilience after the punishing floods between June and October, which also damaged 2 million houses and washed away 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) of roads. At one point, a third of the country was submerged.

The world body says funding raised so far for Pakistan’s flood victims will run out this month, and an emergency appeal launched in October has garnered only about a third of the $816 million sought for food, medicines and other supplies for Pakistanis.

Pakistan plays a negligible role in global warming and emits less than 1% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, but like other developing countries, it has been vulnerable to climate-induced devastation, experts say. The country has seen extreme heat, glacial melt and rising sea levels in recent years.

Climate scientists found that the floods in Pakistan were worsened by global heating although economic, societal and construction-oriented factors also played a role.

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