Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that international attention for flood-hit Pakistan is receding even though large parts of the country, particularly Sindh and Balochistan, remain inundated.

The premier’s remarks come ahead of the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan which will be held in Geneva on January 9. The event will be co-hosted by the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations.

The conference aims to bring together government representatives, leaders from the public and private sectors, and civil society to support the people and the government after the devastating floods of 2022.

In an op-ed published in The Guardian on Friday, PM Shehbaz said that last year’s catastrophic flooding claimed 1,700 lives and affected 33 million people.

“International attention has receded, but the waters have not. Large parts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces remain inundated. The number of food-insecure people in Pakistan has doubled to 14m; another nine million have been pushed into extreme poverty.

“These flooded areas now look like a huge series of permanent lakes, transforming forever the terrain and the lives of people living there. No amount of pumps can remove this water in less than a year; and by July 2023, the worry is that these areas may flood again.”

PM Shehbaz stated that Pakistan was suffering from “recurring climate extremes”, highlighting that the country also witnessed a heatwave in 2022.

“The fact that some of the same areas that received record temperatures were subsequently submerged underlines the sharp swings in weather patterns that are becoming a norm.”

The premier noted that Pakistanis had responded to the calamity with “exemplary resilience”, adding that the government mobilised $1.5 billion in emergency relief.

PM Shehbaz said that while Pakistan was grateful to the international community and friendly countries for their generosity in helping to avoid the worst, more than two million homes, 14,000km of roads, and 23,000 schools and clinics had been destroyed.

“A post-disaster needs assessment, carried out in collaboration with the World Bank and the EU, estimated that the damage caused by floods exceeded $30bn — a 10th of Pakistan’s entire gross domestic product.

“These numbers only scratch the surface of the challenge at hand. They demand a response that would stretch and overwhelm the resources of any country.”

PM Shehbaz further said that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had witnessed the “unimaginable” destruction first-hand during his visit to Sindh.

He said the devastation was greater than that caused by the 2010 floods in Pakistan “which the UN then described as the worst natural disaster it had ever responded to. Pakistan simply cannot do this alone.”

Talking about the upcoming climate conference, Shehbaz said he and the UN chief were co-hosting the moot in Geneva.

“We will be joined by world leaders, representatives of international development and humanitarian organisations, and friends of Pakistan to signal support and solidarity with a country that is grappling with a natural disaster, not of its making.”

PM Shehbaz said a roadmap — developed with the assistance of the World Bank, the European Union, the Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations — would be presented for post-flood reconstruction and rehabilitation.

“The resilient recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction framework (or 4RF) essentially envisages a two-pronged response.

“The first part relates to meeting the immediate challenges of recovery and reconstruction, requiring minimum funding of $16.3bn over a period of three years. Pakistan would meet half the funding from its own resources. But we will count on the continued assistance of our bilateral and multilateral partners to bridge the gap.”

The second part, PM Shehbaz said, outlined Pakistan’s vision for building climate resilience which would require an investment of $13.5bn over a 10-year period.

“Building better communications infrastructure and a more robust irrigation system, and designing efficient early warning systems to mitigate the effects of future natural disasters is not a luxury for Pakistan but an absolute imperative.”

He said the Geneva conference would mark the beginning of a “long and arduous journey”, hoping for a “substantive outcome to reassure millions of imperiled people”.

“It will also remind us that we are all — increasingly — at the mercy of forces of nature that do not respect borders and can only be tamed by joining hands.

“It is, therefore, my sincere hope that our gathering in Geneva comes to symbolise our common humanity and generosity of spirit — a source of hope for all people and countries who may face natural adversity in the future.”

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