ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif receives UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at PM House on Friday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif receives UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at PM House on Friday.—White Star

• Suggests donor conference to help Pakistan recoup $30bn losses
• PM Shehbaz says country merits support from developed world
• FM talks about enormity of challenge

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday proposed holding of a donor conference help flood devastated Pakistan recover and urged the world to give aid ‘as a matter of justice rather than sympathy’.

“We have discussed today the possibility of organising a conference, and we are ready to organise it together with the Pakistani government — of course, this is a decision for the Pakistani government to take — as soon as there is a clear assessment of the needs,” the secretary general said at a media conference at the Foreign Office.

Mr Guterres is on a two-day ‘solidarity visit’ to Pakistan after massive floods linked to climate change that left one-third of the country inundated and nearly 33 million people affected. About 1,400 people, one third of whom are children, have lost their lives so far.

Hundreds of thousands of houses, acres of standing crops and livestock heads have been washed away by the floodwaters that also inflicted massive damage to roads and bridges.

More than half a million people have been displaced. Many of them have been shifted to relief tents.

‘Monsoon on steroids’

The floods have been caused by an unusually high monsoon, which the secretary general had earlier described as “monsoon on steroids” and melting glaciers. Rising temperatures have been blamed for both phenomena.

Pakistan, during July and August this year, received nearly 187 per cent more rains than the national average.

The UN had on Aug 30 launched a $160 million Flash Appeal to urgently help the most affected.

Mr Guterres said the Flash Appeal is launched to allow for aid agencies to start providing “the minimum relief” as the first step. He acknowledged that there was donor fatigue, but hoped that donors would help amid exceptional circumstances that have emerged due to the floods.

The secretary general said the needs assessment should not only cover the relief requirements but also mitigation and reconstruction costs.

Pakistan has already asked the World Bank, the United Nations and the European Union to undertake a post-disaster needs assessment.

“Pakistan needs massive financial support to respond to this crisis that has cost about $30 billion, I have been told, and counting,” Mr Guterres said at another presser with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

He urged the international community to realize the fact that Pakistan had barely contributed to climate change with very low gas emissions level, but was at the ‘frontline of the impact’ of the change because of damage caused by emissions from wealthy countries.

Mr Guterres said that helping Pakistan in the current situation was not just about expressing solidarity, but a matter of justice.

“Effective solidarity and effective justice must be shown by mobilizing massive support for relief and rehabilitation,” he maintained.

Prime Minister Sharif, while emphasizing the need for international aid, said: “Unless we get sufficient support in terms of relief, in terms of repairing our damaged infrastructure, we will be in trouble.”

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, meanwhile at the media conference at FO, said because of the enormity of challenge, the government was not in a position to provide shelter and food to all those affected by the floods across the country.

Mr Guterres, besides, appealing for assistance will also tour some of the most affected areas where he will meet the victims and the aid givers to highlight the needs of those areas and sufferings of the people.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2022

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