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Flooded land: Pakistan since Last Year
Compared to the immediate media coverage it received, the aftermath of the floods that devastated Pakistan last summer has received less attention. Recently, the country has had to balance the response to multiple other crises, namely the impacts of global inflation and the controversial impeachment of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Conversations around the aid Pakistan has received from Western countries in response to the environmental disaster have prompted discussions about Western countries’ level of responsibility. These highly industrialized countries are mainly responsible for climate change as they heavily rely on fossil fuel and other carbon-emitting industries the global economy revolves around. To avoid responsibility, they instead shift the consequences of their unsustainable practices to countries like Pakistan, which are more susceptible to climate change-induced natural disasters.
Although much aid in the form of material goods and financial support has been delivered, there are still many unanswered questions about the recovery process six months later. The flood then forced the government led by Imran Khan to confront their unsustainable economic relationship with the West, which led to a domestic political crisis that further delayed the response to the flood.
The Slow Road to Recovery
The response to recovery has been critical given the large displacement of many Pakistanis. Moreover, meeting basic needs has become more challenging than ever. While Pakistan has experienced many floods in the past, the 2022 disaster has highlighted the country’s struggle with the costs of economic and social development. As such, much of the response has been focused on rebuilding infrastructure and restoring access to essentials like water, food, and especially shelter. As many houses had been damaged or destroyed, shelter has been the most urgent need. Additionally, the floods occurred in the fall when the weather was cool down. Thus, creating safe and warm shelters has been a priority.
Furthermore, there are still many people in need of access to clean water. Unclean water can lead to sickness and mortality, which will only worsen Pakistan’s economy further. As Pakistan struggles to repay its loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international creditors, the economy remains unstable, and sickness and death will only worsen these challenges.
Another issue that is likely to arise from the floods that have yet to occur is the rise of crop prices as flooded fields miss out on harvesting crops. Despite having a largely agricultural-based economy, there are still many who do not have regular access to food. As crops are destroyed and people are unable to work, purchasing food will become even more difficult.
The widespread impact of the floods has led many people to become stuck in limbo or poverty. Destroyed homes need to be rebuilt, which can build up costs and force people to move to where there is more aid or opportunity, creating pressure on more developed urban areas. By helping Pakistan get back on its feet, the international community can reduce the impact of the disaster on both Pakistanis and the global community.
While Pakistan’s political parties have largely been united in response to the floods and providing support, there is a major partisan decision to be made: whether the government should cut social spending to meet the demands as part of their loan agreement with the IMF, or more effectively respond to the immense human suffering caused by the floods. The process being taken to make this decision has been criticized as incoherent and ineffective, and the results will definitely influence how people will vote in general elections later this fall.
The ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had a distrust of international organizations directed by Western countries, believed that the IMF loans had not been beneficial to the country. His opinions ultimately led to a confidence vote on removing him from office. Currently, he is set up to run again barring any further attempted arrests by the police. However, as Pakistan recovers from the floods now, examples of international financial support being ineffective in responding to the crisis have been discovered. For example, the financial support was found to focus on making the government more hospitable to outside businesses that exploit Pakistani workers’ low wages and tough working conditions. Khan was one of the minority opponents of these plans and advocated for renegotiating or not honoring the loans Pakistan has received.
A Look Towards the Future and Continued Response in Pakistan
To help Pakistan, which houses the 5th largest population in the world, international organizations should provide significant assistance with minimal interest rates, which will allow the Pakistani government to focus on assisting its citizens more than repaying debts. Rather than relying on outside investment, aid should be more centered on building local economies able to withstand floods. Areas of Pakistan least affected by poor drainage have been due to concrete buildings similar to or based on Western designs which provides a model for how infrastructure can be improved to minimize flooding impacts on Pakistan.
Aside from aid for immediate relief, new discussions around adaptable and resilient growth must also be had. As Pakistan prepares for its upcoming elections, the IMF and other international lenders must consider the popularity of leaders such as Imran Khan and work to find mutually beneficial financial agreements without demanding extensive economic reforms that expose Pakistan to financial exploitation by international corporations.
As Pakistan and developing countries in similar situations struggle to recover from these disasters, it is worth considering how to escape the debt cycle that exists as climate disasters are likely to continuously affect these nations. How international organizations respond to the systemic issues in global politics will shape how countries like Pakistan react to international cooperation.
Edited by Majeed Malhas