Since torrential rains began lashing Balochistan in mid-June, flash floods and rising waters have caused over 1300 casualties around Pakistan, a third of which is now under water.
The Southasia Peace Action Network or Sapan, and friends of Southasia offer our solidarity and support to Pakistan and call upon people and governments around the world, particularly in the region, to step forward urgently to help offset a humanitarian disaster.
In such a crisis, neighbouring countries must be compassionate and respond with speed and with a completely humanitarian outlook. Whatever our histories and tensions, this is the moment to cease all hostilities and reach out wholeheartedly.
It is critical in the short term to provide food, medicines, clothing, and other emergency aid, including human and medical resources, like doctors and nurses, engineers and other support required to rebuild the devastated region.
We appreciate the expressions of solidarity and condolences by the heads of state in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. We particularly note with gratitude Bangladesh’s contribution of 80 million Taka (around USD 840,000) worth of relief goods and Sri Lanka’s tea donation. There are unconfirmed reports of India offering aid to Pakistan, but no official statement pledging assistance so far.
In the last two decades, India has helped all countries in the region, through tsunami, floods, earthquake, cyclone related disasters, providing aid in every form, including financially. More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it provided vaccines. In the last twelve months India has generously provided aid in the conflict region of Afghanistan and in crisis-ridden Sri Lanka.
It is important to note that India has sufficient food stocks to be able to help the affected people in flood-ridden Pakistan. There is an urgent need to ease border restrictions at least to the levels of 2009 to provide easy access to food and relief materials. Apart from cereals, pulses, milk and vegetables, India can provide nutritious food for pregnant and lactating mothers and children.
The calamity in Pakistan also highlights the burning issue of climate change. Sapan’s resolution last October urging Southasian nations to adopt a regional approach and collaborate to combat the climate crisis not only remains relevant, but is now imperative.
The floods in Pakistan should serve as a warning for the entire region to gear up for similar disasters that may take place, with climate change affecting all countries. The region needs to combat this ongoing and forthcoming devastations collectively.
History will remember the leadership of the region for having reached out and stood by the people of the various countries in times of crises. This is a most opportune time for the leadership of our countries to urgently hold an online meeting and show their solidarity to the people of Pakistan.
Specific governmental policies can facilitate effective work for collective progress and enhance solidarity in the region.
1. Relax inter-regional visa and trade policies: The damage to crops and agricultural produce has led to food shortages and price rise, pushing essential items out of reach for millions. This had prompted calls for Pakistan to consider opening duty-free import and reviving imports through the land route with India. Although Pakistan has since pedalled back, Sapan urges India to take initiative and reach out to help address this adversity.
2. Ease restrictions on monetary transactions: The policies disallowing monetary transactions between India and Pakistan stand in the way of those anxious to contribute. Relaxing these policies will boost ongoing relief works and enable citizens of Southasia to stand by Pakistan in this hour of need.
3. Establish and strengthen regional response: Southasian governments must institute a regional disaster mechanism, as envisioned by SAARC, the South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation. There is a dire need to exchange technical expertise in relief and rehabilitation as well as institute and promote long term adaptation methods. We call upon the government authorities across Southasia to build a united front and represent the region’s interests at global fora, including the upcoming COP 27 at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
We appeal to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, NDMA, to allow aid relief from India and other neighbouring countries and remove all related tariff and import duties. Support from neighbouring countries including India will contribute towards a swift and comprehensive relief and recovery process.
4. Focus on long-term rehabilitation: There is a need to recognize the long-term needs of those impacted by these floods. A long term plan needs to be chalked out and resources allocated for their rehabilitation. Certain communities must be prioritised in national plans, like special needs individuals, agriculturists, women, children, the elderly and rural poor.
We urge the participants from the global north at the upcoming COP 27 in Egypt to reconsider their approach on ‘Loss and Damage’ and take urgent measures to provide climate reparations and fund climate adaptation in at-risk communities that bear the brunt of climate change despite small carbon footprint (details below).
See fundraising appeals by trusted organisations and collectives engaged in relief operations on ground at this link.
Floods have affected over 33 million people around Pakistan. Over 900,000 livestock have been killed, a million houses damaged, and millions of acres of standing crops destroyed.
Heavy rainfall continues to cripple lives and livelihood in the region. The southern districts of Balochistan and Sindh provinces are the worst hit.
Women: The millions impacted include estimated 8.2 million women of reproductive age, and at least 650,000 pregnant women and girls, 73,000 of whom are expected to deliver over the coming month. Many lack access to the healthcare facilities and support they need to deliver safely. Urgent relief efforts include providing hygiene kits to millions of girls and women.
Global climate crisis: As many have been saying, this is “not a Pakistan issue, it is a global climate crisis”. Greenhouse gas emissions have impacted those “whose emissions are nearly zero,”
Worse than 2010 floods: The rivers sweep through towns and villages are even overflowing bridges re-built higher after being swept away in the last major floods of 2010. There were then nearly 2,000 casualties, 6 million displaced, and around 2 million homes destroyed, according to Yale Climate Connections. The current damage is already greater.
UN Flash Appeal: The unprecedented scale of the disaster has led to a flash appeal for assistance by the United Nations.
CBDR-RC and Climate Reparations: The humanitarian crisis in Pakistan again foregrounds the principle of ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities’, or CBDR-RC, as outlined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The catastrophe has catalysed calls for climate reparations for loss and damage, as communities contributing least to climate change continue to suffer the most. The USD 100 billion commitment made in the Paris Accords has yet to be honoured.
Relief efforts in Pakistan: The spirit of philanthropy is helping the rescue and relief efforts of existing organisations. Newer loosely knit groups have also emerged, many formed through social media connections.
On the basis of a rapid needs assessment, aid workers and activists are crowdsourcing and mapping data of affected areas in their calls for rescue and relief.
Small organisations can sometimes mobilise more quickly to provide rescue and relief. One example is Mahwari Justice, run by two young women who connected on Facebook, providing hygiene kits with underwear and menstrual pads to flood-affected individuals.
Pakistan, a country in the top ten bracket on the Global Vulnerability Index, is facing a crisis that is beyond the capacity of any one country. The Global South as a region needs to build a shared response to such a crisis.
Gratitude to all those who drafted this statement, edited it, and provided inputs and information including Husnain Jamil Faridi, Namrata Sharma, Priyanka Singh, Kavita Srivastava, Fauzia Deeba, Irfan Mufti, Afia Salam, Neel Kamal.