ISLAMABAD: UN chief Antonio Guterres will travel to flood-hit Pakistan next week for a solidarity visit and also see how the UN is working to support the government’s efforts to provide assistance to millions of people impacted by the unprecedented floods.
The visit was announced after the cash-strapped Pakistan government on Tuesday teamed up with the United Nations and issued a flash appeal for USD 160 million to deal with the disaster that has displaced over 33 million people in the country that has become the “ground zero” of global warming.
The country-wide death toll touched 1,162 on Wednesday, with 3,554 injured and over 33 million displaced, according to the data released by the National Disaster Management Authority (NMDA), the chief national body tasked to deal with calamities.
In a statement, the UN said on Tuesday that Secretary-General Guterres will travel to Pakistan for a solidarity visit given the “tragic situation facing millions of men, women and children impacted by historic floods.”
The Secretary-General is expected to arrive in Islamabad on September 9 and will then travel to the areas most impacted by the unprecedented climate catastrophe.
Guterres will meet with displaced families and will also witness how the UN is working, in collaboration with its humanitarian partners, to support the government’s relief efforts and provide assistance to millions of people. He is expected back in New York on September 11.
Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad welcomed the UN chief’s visit, and said: “it will contribute in a big way to our collective effort to highlight the impact of this disaster”.
“His visit will further mobilise international assistance,” he added. Earlier, in a video message on Tuesday on the flash appeal in support of the Pakistan Flood Response Plan, Guterres said the country is awash in suffering.
“The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids, the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding. This climate catastrophe has killed more than 1,000 people with many more injured,” he said.
Millions have been rendered homeless, schools and health facilities have been destroyed, livelihoods are shattered, critical infrastructure wiped out, and people’s hopes and dreams have washed away, Guterres said.
The “2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP)” was jointly launched by the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations, simultaneously in Islamabad and Geneva.
The FRP is being launched against the backdrop of devastating rains, floods and landslides that have impacted more than 33 million people in different parts of Pakistan.
The FRP focuses on the needs of 5.2 million people, with life-saving response activities amounting to USD 160.3 million covering food security, assistance for agriculture and livestock, shelter and non-food items, nutrition programmes, primary health services, protection, water and sanitation, women’s health, and education support, as well as shelter for displaced people.
Guterres said that in response to the devastation, the Government of Pakistan has released funds, including immediate cash relief but the scale of needs is rising like the flood waters and this requires the world’s collective and prioritized attention.
The Flash Appeal for USD 160 million to support the response, led by the Government of Pakistan, will provide 5.2 million people with food, water, sanitation, emergency education, protection and health support, he said.
Guterres underlined that South Asia is one of the world’s global climate crisis hotspots and people living in these hotspots are 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts.
“As we continue to see more and more extreme weather events around the world, it is outrageous that climate action is being put on the back burner as global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising, putting all of us “everywhere” in growing danger,” he said.
While urging the world community to step up in solidarity and support the people of Pakistan in their hour of need, Guterres said, “Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.”
Meanwhile, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a sexual and reproductive health agency, said on Wednesday that at least 6,50,000 pregnant women, of whom 73,000 are expected to deliver next month, in the flood-affected areas are in dire need of maternal health service, according to The Dawn newspaper.
The UN agency also warned that many women were at an increased risk of gender-based violence as almost one million houses were damaged in the floods.
“Up to 73,000 women expected to deliver next month will need skilled birth attendants, newborn care, and support,” the agency said, adding that pregnancies and childbirth cannot wait for emergencies or natural disasters to be over as this is when a woman and baby are vulnerable and need the most care.