ISLAMABAD: A severe paucity of funds to cope with the enormous challenge posed by devastating floods has set off alarm bells, compelling the government to divert climate resilience funds to meet immediate relief requirements of flood-hit people.

This was stated by Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman while talking to reporters here on Wednesday.

She said that floodwaters were still standing in large parts of Sindh, where many parts of the land were below sea level, while funds and resources to save lives and provide shelter were still in short supply.

“Immediate relief needs are swallowing up all available resources, and despite development partners stepping in as well as the United Nations Secretary General’s impassioned appeal to assist Pakistan, the gap between existing and upcoming needs is huge,” the minister said.

Floods compelled govt to divert climate resilience fund to meet immediate needs of flood-hit people, says Sherry

“One thing is affecting every relief effort, and that is a clear deficit of funds and goods. We have already diverted all development and climate resilience funds towards relief, especially to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to ensure that Rs25,000 is made available immediately to each affected family.

“In addition to the UN system, given the scale and immediacy of the disaster, we urgently need more assistance from the international community for relief, as thousands are still in tents, while many still seek a cover over their heads,” she said.

Ms Rehman said that thousands of people were still seeking shelters, and there were worries about people spending the entire winter this way. The country will need much more to service 33 million people affected by the unprecedented disaster, she noted.

“Pakistan’s economic system has sustained a huge exogenous shock. We need urgent buffers from a debt overhang that is squeezing out fiscal options to rebuild almost half the country, while we also need climate resilience funds that can be accessed with speed and scale.”

The minister said there was no immediate basket of accessible funds for climate resilient recovery, let alone disaster-assistance.

“Since both are triggered by climate impacts, the economic buffer for countries already in debt-stress should be clearly appropriated and disbursed as climate funds that are easy to access, with predictable transfers.

“If Pakistan emits less than one per cent that causes the warming that triggers such shocks, why is assistance cast in a “disaster-aid or begging-bowl basket”? It should not. Not at all,” she remarked.

Speaking about the food insecurity caused by flood losses, the minister said the country was faced with the threat of food insecurity as the floods had drowned vast swathes of agricultural land, and made the cost or availability of food a prohibitive cost.

She said the Hunger Hotspot Report 2022 (FAO-WFP early warnings on food insecurity) showed that the impact of the floods would compound the rapid deterioration of the country’s situation, driving food insecurity beyond the 4.7 million (26%) severely food insecure population in three provinces of the country: Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

“Not only we have lost the crops that were to be harvested, there are serious concerns over how much land will be available for the upcoming planting (Rabi) season. Initial damage estimates indicate a loss of 74pc cultivable land in Sindh alone, totaling up to around 3,410,743 acres.

“The province, which is considered Pakistan’s bread basket, has lost 100pc of its cotton crop, 88pc of vegetables, and 66pc of rice to the floods. Nationally, over four million acres of agricultural land have been lost to the floods amounting to a financial loss of over Rs481 million,” she said.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022

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