A new report has found Pakistan to be among five countries across the world “least resilient” to the effects of natural disasters, as the South Asian nation grapples with the catastrophic flooding and ensuing emergencies.
The report from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll released this week is based on interviews from more than 125,000 people, conducted by Gallup, in 121 countries last year to assess vulnerability in a changing climate.
Heavy seasonal rainfall, made worse by global climate change, triggered the floods in Pakistan, a country of about 220 million people. The United Nations and local officials say the disaster has claimed the lives of some 1,600 people, including at least 575 children, affected 33 million people and drenched larges parts of Pakistan, especially the southern Sindh province, since mid-June.
With flooding worsening since the poll was conducted, the international survey released this week by the United Kingdom-based independent global charity raises concerns around Pakistan’s ability to cope with and recover from such disasters.
The study noted that three in five Pakistanis (60%) who had experienced a disaster said it was caused by heavy rain or flooding, well above the global average of 37%.
Additionally, many of the country’s 220 million residents had gone without vital resources for more than a day in the 12 months prior to the survey – almost three-quarters or 71% said they had gone without electricity. More than a third (36%) said they had been unable to access medical assistance or medicine, and 42% said they had been unable to access a telephone.
Sarah Cumbers, the director of evidence and insight at the British charity said the countries that are most exposed to the effects of natural hazards are often those most lacking in the means to cope with and recover from such events.
Cumbers said their research can draw policymakers’ attention to the types of support they must bolster to improve resilience in the face of potential future disasters.
“If they fail to do so, the lives and wellbeing of even more people will be put at risk over the years to come,” she said in the report.
Children from flood-affected areas wait to receive food aid, in Lal Bagh, Sindh province, Pakistan, Sept. 13, 2022.
Looming health crisis
The United Nations says the seasonal monsoon downpours “have broken a century-long record” and dumped more than five times the 30-year average for rainfall in some parts of Pakistan, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Many of them remain in dire straits in in need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian agencies are racing to provide emergency aid to flood victims, but officials say numerous roads and bridges have been washed away or damaged, cutting off access to population in hardest hit areas.
Officials in Sindh said Friday they had deployed thousands of additional doctors and paramedics in the province to contain the spread of waterborne and other diseases that have killed more than 300 flood victims over the past two months.
An estimated 3.4 million children have been uprooted from their homes and are grappling to survive.
The United Nations has warned that outbreaks of diarrhea, typhoid and malaria are increasing rapidly as millions of flood victims sleep in temporary shelters or in the open near stagnating water.
“A second disaster is looming in sight – health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene – are of critical concern,” a U.N. statement said Wednesday.
Pakistani officials have reported more than 134,000 cases of diarrhea and 44,000 cases of malaria in Sindh this past week.
Cargo planes carrying relief supplies and medicines have arrived in Pakistan from dozens of countries, including China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
“What the world has done is commendable, but it is far from meeting our needs. We can’t do it alone,” Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that aired Friday.
Sharif is due to address the U.N. General Assembly later Friday in New York, where he is expected to highlight the devastation caused by floods in Pakistan and call for more international support to help his country deal with the catastrophe.