World owes Pakistan 'massive' help, says U.N. Secretary-General

As flooding in Pakistan leaves million homeless, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging world aid for the impoverished nation. Despite facing frequent climate disasters, Pakistan is responsible for only 0.4% of the world’s carbon emissions. 

Fareed Khan/AP
Residents displaced by heavy flooding from monsoon rains wait to receive relief aid from the Pakistani Army in the Qambar Shahdadkot district of Sindh Province, Pakistan Sept. 9, 2022. The U.N. Secretary-General has urged the world to send immediate aid to Pakistan.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Mr. Guterres said Friday that the world owes impoverished Pakistan “massive” help in recovering from devastating floods because other nations have contributed much more to climate change, which experts say may have helped trigger the deluge.

Months of monsoons and flooding have killed 1,391 people and affected 3.3 million in this South Asian nation while half a million people have become homeless. Planeloads of aid from the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries have begun arriving, but there’s more to be done, Mr. Guterres said.

Nature, the U.N. chief said in Islamabad, has attacked Pakistan, which contributes less than 1% of global emissions, according to multiple experts. Nations that “are more responsible for climate change ... should have faced this challenge,” Mr. Guterres said, seated next to Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“We are heading into a disaster,” Mr. Guterres added. “We have waged war on nature and nature is tracking back and striking back in a devastating way. Today in Pakistan, tomorrow in any of your countries.”

The U.N. chief’s trip comes less than two weeks after Mr. Guterres appealed for $160 million in emergency funding to help those affected by the monsoon rains and floods that Pakistan says have caused at least $10 billion in damages.

“I appeal for massive support from the international community as Pakistan responds to this climate catastrophe,” Mr. Guterres tweeted after landing in Pakistan earlier Friday.

He said other nations contributing to climate change are obligated to reduce emissions and help Pakistan. He assured Mr. Sharif that his voice was “entirely at the service of the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people” and that “the entire U.N. system is at the service of Pakistan.”

“Pakistan has not contributed in a meaningful way to climate change, the level of emissions in this country is relatively low,” Mr. Guterres said. “But Pakistan is one of the most dramatically impacted countries by climate change.”

On Friday, the first planeload arrived from the U.S., which Washington says is part of an upcoming $30 million in assistance. More U.S. military planes are expected to arrive in the coming days as part of a humanitarian bridge set up by Washington to deliver much-need aid across the country.

Later, Mr. Guterres directed his words to the international community, saying that by some estimates, Pakistan needs about $30 billion to recover.

So far, U.N. agencies and several countries have sent nearly 60 planeloads of aid, and authorities say the UAE has been one of the most generous contributors and sent so far 26 flights carrying aid for flood victims.

Also Friday, Samantha Power, the administrator of USAID, met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Islamabad.

The floods have touched all of Pakistan, including heritage sites such as Mohenjo Daro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered one of the best-preserved ancient urban settlements in South Asia. The civilization dates back 4,500 years, coinciding with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The U.N. heritage agency on Thursday announced it would send $350,000 to help recover flood-damaged cultural heritage sites.

Since June, heavy rains and floods have added new burdens to cash-strapped Pakistan and highlighted the disproportionate effect of climate change on impoverished populations. Experts say Pakistan is responsible for only 0.4% of the world’s historic emissions that are blamed for climate change. The U.S. is responsible for 21.5%, China for 16.5%, and the European Union for 15%.

The floods in Pakistan have also injured 12,722 people, destroyed thousands of miles of roads, toppled bridges, and damaged schools and hospitals, according to the National Disaster Management Agency.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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