Former Boise State student gives insight into how flooding has affected Pakistan

Photo courtesy of Asif Hassan

Since monsoon season began in June, Pakistan has experienced unprecedented levels of rainfall resulting in flooding across the country. 

Reports from the Pakistan Meteorological Department show that the inches of rainfall in southern Pakistan this summer were 508% above the historical average. Flooding has resulted in nearly a third of the country being underwater, as of late September.

“Millions are homeless. Schools and health facilities have been destroyed. Livelihoods are shattered, critical infrastructure wiped out, and people’s hopes and dreams have washed away,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a press release.

Roughly 33 million Pakistanis, or 1 in 7 people, have been affected by flooding, according to UN estimates. Eight million people have been displaced by the floods, and at least 1,600 have died — including 500 children.

“I know for a fact that there’s no clean water, and there’s no electricity in many [places affected by flooding],” said Hania Khan, a former Boise State cultural exchange student who currently lives in Punjab, Pakistan. “There’s a lot of problems when it comes to what they’re going to eat [and] problems regarding menstruation because they don’t have access to menstrual products. I’ve heard stories of women using leaves instead of pads.”

Pakistan experienced similar severe flooding in 2010, which left over 2,000 dead and ended up being the deadliest flood in the country’s history. However, this year’s flooding is quickly approaching that death toll. 

Flooding has made clear that infrastructure in Pakistan was not designed to withstand such severe natural disasters. Over 100 bridges and thousands of miles of road have been destroyed by the floods, creating additional mobility and transportation problems in the country. 

[People remove bushes from their flooded houses in Sukkur, Pakistan.]
Photo courtesy of Asif Hassan

“I think I’ve seen the way that the government approaches this is reactionary-based,” Khan said. “They react to the calamity as opposed to having structures already existing that might prevent the calamity from happening in the first place.”

The Pakistani government estimates it will need $7-14 billion per year, every year until 2050, to prepare for future disasters and build climate resilient infrastructure, but this will require massive amounts of funding that the Pakistani government does not have.

Climate activists have been quick to attribute the increases in rainfall and flooding in Pakistan to climate change and the general heating of the planet. A study published by the World Weather Attribution on Sep. 14 supports the idea that unprecedented levels of heat in Pakistan this summer led to a harsher than normal monsoon season.  

“Climate change is happening all over the world, but it is the more developing nations that are most affected because they don’t have the resources in order to minimize the effect of it,” Khan said. “I think instead of taking it as something that only Pakistan is experiencing, it should be taken as a starting point of something that potentially every country will have to deal with.”

Pakistan has more icebergs than any other area in the world outside of the polar regions. As the planet heats up, icebergs are melting more and more, which directly impacted this year’s flooding, according to the Red Cross UK.

On Sep. 27, the U.S. government announced an additional $10 million to help provide food aid to Pakistan, bringing total U.S. assistance up to $66 million. But as of Sep. 30, the UN is still seeking at least $800 million additional aid to help the country recover. 

“Pakistan is already struggling with a lot of things, and poverty is obviously one of them. I’m not sure how possible it is to devise a safety net in the first place, without having excessive resources,” Khan said. “I am very concerned [about] how people will rehabilitate because right now, even if they get the resources, even if they get the food, the children still have to go back to school, right? They have to go back to their jobs and their lives.”

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