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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also spoke on the occasion, urging nations to extend their support to Pakistan in these challenging times.
The FM said the devastation witnessed in Pakistan following the recent spell of unprecedented rains and floods showed that the country had become “ground zero” of global warming, the “biggest existential threat” of this century.
“The current cycle of super flooding we see today is part of extreme weather patterns. Unprecedented levels of cloud bursts and torrential rains have triggered widespread devastation, urban flooding, river floods and landslides, resulting in the loss of human life, livelihoods and livestock,” Bilawal said.
He described this year’s “super floods” as a “climate calamity”, adding that “what we are facing today has been no above average monsoon.
“It is an entirely new level of climate-led catastrophe.”
The FM said rainfall in Pakistan since mid-June had been equivalent to three times the 30-year national average and the southern, central and northern regions of the country were worst affected.
He said it was feared the scale of destruction caused by this year’s floods would exceed the impact of 2010’s “mega or super floods”.
Sharing details about the extent of damage, he said 72 districts were declared calamity-hit, over 33 million people were affected — which is the size of a small country — over 1,000 people had lost their lives and several others were grappling with the loss of livelihoods and displacement.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and forced to spend days and nights … under a merciless sky and [the] lack of access to food, water and shelter are making life harder with each passing day,” he lamented.
Moreover, he said the damage to infrastructure and railway networks was impeding efforts to deliver aid and to shift people from flood-hit areas to safer locations.
The FM said the situation was likely to deteriorate further as more rains continued to pummel already flooded areas.
“For us, this is no less than a national emergency. This is a life-defining experience.”
The floods, the FM said, had taken a toll on the economy and stretched the country’s resources.
He said the government was cognisant of its responsibility and had earmarked $173 million to help flood-hit people through direct cash transfers. This, Bilawal elaborated, would be disbursed through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to 1.5 million families who will each receive Rs25,000 ($115) in immediate cash relief.