Deadly floods that threaten to engulf up to a third of Pakistan by the end of the monsoon season have caused more than $10 billion in damages, according to officials in the crisis-hit country.
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal revealed the estimated cost Monday, telling CNN: “The world needs to come to Pakistan’s assistance to deal with the effects of climate change.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provided a lifeline Monday, releasing $1.17 billion in bailout funds to avert a default on the South Asian nation’s debt obligations as it grapples with political and economic turmoil worsened by the unprecedented floods.
About 33 million people — or 15% of the population — have been affected by the flooding and severe rains, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
At least 1,136 people, including 386 children, have been killed and 1,634 injured since mid-June, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said Monday, as the unrelenting rain raised fears of more fatalities to come. The floods have also destroyed key infrastructure including more than 130 bridges and nearly half a million homes, according to NDMA.
“By the time this is over, we could well have one quarter or one third of Pakistan under water,” Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman told Turkish news outlet TRT World on Thursday.
Even before the floods, Pakistan had disproportionately suffered from the climate crisis, according to researchers and aid groups. Last year, Pakistan ranked the eighth most affected nation by climate change from 2000 to 2019, in the Global Climate Risk Index by non-profit group Germanwatch.
In a statement Monday, IRC’s Pakistan country director Shabnam Baloch said the country is “suffering the consequences of the world’s inaction” on climate change “despite producing less than 1% of the world’s carbon footprint.”
A lack of hygiene facilities and clean drinking water has exacerbated the risk of diseases spreading in flooded areas, with nearly 20,000 people in need of critical food supplies and medical support, Baloch added.
“Our needs assessment showed that we are already seeing a major increase in cases of diarrhea, skin infections, malaria and other illnesses,” she said. “We are urgently requesting donors to step up their support and help us save lives.”
The funds earmarked for release by the IMF on Monday are part of a 2019 bailout agreement to “put Pakistan’s economy on the path of sustainable and balanced growth,” according to the IMF.
“Pakistan’s economy has been buffeted by adverse external conditions, due to spillovers from the war in Ukraine, and domestic challenges,” Antoinette Sayeh, IMF deputy managing director and acting chair said in a statement Monday.
The IMF has been criticized in the past for imposing strict austerity on receiver nations, forcing governments to cut social programs and privatize national industries.
Conditions set by the IMF have forced Pakistan’s government to make unpopular decisions such as raising electricity tariffs and doubling the cost of fuel amid skyrocketing inflation.