Almost six months after the devastating floods in Pakistan, Hajra Mirjat is still living under the open sky with her family. "We lost everything in the floods and we don't see how we can rebuild our lives," says the mother of three. She lives in Tando Allahyar, around 200 kilometers north-east of the port city of Karachi, in the worst-hit province of Sindh. She is one of around 33 million inhabitants who have partly lost everything.
At a UN conference in Geneva today, billions are to be collected for reconstruction. "This was a climate-related disaster, so it's a global problem," UN Emergency Relief Office Pakistan Representative Knut Ostby said in Geneva.
Children go to bed hungry
"My husband and I talk about moving every day, but we can't go anywhere without money," the 32-year-old says through tears. The fields are still flooded. Her husband is a day laborer and often comes home empty-handed in the evening. Only a few tarpaulins protect the family from the weather. They only had money for one meal a day, the children often went to bed hungry.
After heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan in the summer of 2022, a third of the country was temporarily under water. For comparison: the country is more than twice the size of Germany in terms of area. The southern provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan experienced seven to eight times the usual amount of rain in August. The Indus River flooded thousands of square kilometers of land.
According to the authorities, more than 1,700 people lost their lives and eight million had to leave their towns and villages before the floods hit. More than two million homes, 13,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 450 bridges and more than 1.6 million hectares of farmland, clinics and drinking water reservoirs were damaged or destroyed.
Hardly any trust in the political leadership
The United Nations fear that nine of the 225 million inhabitants will slide into poverty because of the disaster. The country ranks 161 out of 191 countries on the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index.
Society's trust in the political leadership is not great. Millions of people live in abject poverty as day laborers with no prospect of improvement. A significant part of the national budget is spent on the powerful military, which has nuclear weapons. Shortly before the floods, an alliance of politicians who had repeatedly had to defend themselves against allegations of corruption in the past came to power.
Despite all the criticism of the governance and financial priorities, one thing is clear: Pakistan has always experienced storm disasters, and climate change is making them much worse. And Pakistan itself has done practically nothing. A team led by the German climate researcher Friederike Otto has calculated that climate change has increased the maximum rainfall over a five-day period in the southern provinces by up to 50 percent.
Industrialized countries are responsible
"No country deserves such a fate, especially no country like Pakistan, which has contributed practically nothing to climate change and temperature rise," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres during a visit to the crisis area. The industrialized countries are primarily responsible for the increase in temperatures. They advanced industrialization with fossil fuels and thereby caused the large emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, China, India and other countries are also contributing to the increase in greenhouse gases.
Emergency aid after the floods made slow progress. Less than half of the $470 million in emergency aid budgeted by the UN was raised. Now it's about long-term help. Pakistan wants to better arm the country against similar disasters in the future. According to their estimates, a good 16 billion dollars are needed for this. Pakistan intends to raise half itself, with the rest coming from foreign partners.
First of all, the agricultural land, some of which is under layers of mud, is to be restored so that people can earn their living again. Likewise, new schools, clinics, houses and roads are to be built in such a way that they can withstand new floods.