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Pakistan: Floods are stark warning to wealthy countries on climate change

© Visual News Pakistan

Pakistan one of the most climate vulnerable places in the world

Countries must support Pakistan as floods devastate lives and impact a range of human rights

650,000 pregnant women in the flood-affected areas at particular risk

Wealthy countries have a responsibility to remedy historic injustices and support low-emitting countries like Pakistan after deadly floods have shown the devastating impact of climate change, Amnesty International said today.

Rimmel Mohydin, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Campaigner, said:

“The destruction and death in Pakistan have shown how these floods risk entrenching existing inequalities and putting millions at risk of homelessness, hunger, ill-health and even premature death.

“Existing inequalities based on people’s gender, socio-economic status, age, and other identities will no doubt be exacerbated by the floods. Marginalised groups, such as people living in poverty are bound to be much worse off.

“The Pakistani government must uphold the human rights of the affected communities and take preventive measures to protect those most at-risk from the impacts of the disaster.

“Countries that have enriched themselves using fossil fuels and other unsustainable practices must meet their international obligations. They must provide compensation and other forms of remedy for the loss and damage people are suffering in Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s low emission

Since 1959, Pakistan has accounted for 0.4% of historic emission and yet it is listed as one of the most climate vulnerable places in the world, according to joint findings by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

These floods alone have, by early estimates, cost the country £8.5 billion. The recent floods are a devastating reminder that the consequences of climate change are intensifying, underscoring the importance of states catching up with their adaptation and mitigation efforts. 

Flood damage

According to government reports, the flood damage in Pakistan is far-reaching, leaving close to three quarters of a million people without access to safe and adequate housing. Large swathes of agricultural lands have been flooded, destroying crops and threatening the country’s food supply.

The Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said on Monday that a “third of the country is under water,” dubbing it a “crisis of unimaginable proportions.” Damage to infrastructure and internet and phone connectivity is severely hampering rescue and relief operations.

Climate change involves not only rising temperatures, but also extreme weather events. While flooding can be caused by a variety of factors, rising temperatures can make the likelihood of extreme rainfall much higher, overwhelming Pakistan’s river embankments in some areas. The 2010 floods, which killed 1,700 people, were also found to be largely attributable to rising global temperatures.

Devastating impact on people in poverty and risks of gender-based violence

The floods have had a particularly devastating impact on people living in poverty as many of them live in inadequate and poor-quality housing along riverbanks, low-lying areas and areas that are difficult to reach due to lack of adequate infrastructure. Little has been done so far to protect these communities from the impacts of climate change. 

Women are particularly adversely affected by the floods. According to the United Nations Population Fund, there are almost 650,000 pregnant women in the flood-affected areas, with almost 73,000 women expected to deliver in the next month. More than 1,000 health facilities are either partially or fully damaged in Sindh province, whereas 198 health facilities are damaged in affected districts in Balochistan. 

There is also a heightened possibility of women and girls being at risk of gender-based violence, according to UNICEF, owing to the breakdown of order and social protection mechanisms during a crisis. Menstrual hygiene must also be given its due consideration when developing relief programs, with the UNFPA estimating the victims of the floods to include 8.2 million women of reproductive age.

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