UN chief visits flood-hit Pakistan, appeals for ‘massive’ help

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Antonio Guterres makes the appeal as record floods kill nearly 1,400 people and render more than one million homeless.

Islamabad, Pakistan – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for “massive” global support for Pakistan where unprecedented floods have killed nearly 1,400 people and made more than a million people homeless.

Guterres made the appeal as he landed in the Pakistani capital early on Friday morning and was received by Hina Rabbani Khar, the state minister for foreign affairs.

“I have arrived in Pakistan to express my deep solidarity with the Pakistani people after the devastating floods here. I appeal for massive support from the international community as Pakistan responds to this climate catastrophe,” Guterres tweeted shortly after his arrival.

The UN chief later met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other top officials.

“I call on the international community that Pakistan needs massive financial support, as according to initial estimates the losses are around $30bn,” Guterres told a joint news conference in Islamabad.

Sharif said “Pakistan needs an infinite amount of funding”. He said the country “will remain in trouble as long as it doesn’t receive sufficient international assistance”.

The UN chief is scheduled to visit the areas most impacted by the climate catastrophe on Saturday.

Pakistan’s minister for information and broadcasting, Marriyam Aurangzeb, said the UN chief’s visit will help highlight the problems faced by flood victims at a global level and help in “sensitising the world” about the consequences of climate change.

The devastating floods have also caused significant damage to Mohenjo Daro, a famous 4,500-year-old archaeological site in the southeastern Sindh province which UNESCO has declared a World Heritage site.

The UN has already launched an urgent appeal to raise $160m to help Pakistan.

“There is a lot of attention on the war in Ukraine. But people tend to forget there is another war – the war we are waging on nature, and nature is striking back, and climate change is supercharging the destruction of our planet,” Guterres told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York before leaving for Pakistan.

Officials and climate activists say Pakistan contributes less than one percent to global greenhouse gas emissions but is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to extreme weather.

In a video message to an event in Pakistan last week, the UN chief said: “Let’s stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change … Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.”

More than a third of Pakistan was submerged by melting glaciers and record monsoon rains that began in June, causing colossal damage to homes, roads, bridges, rail networks, livestock and crops.

While finance minister Miftah Ismail estimated the total loss at $10bn amid a continuing economic crisis, independent analysts put the figure between $15bn and $20bn, and fear it could further rise.

The Pakistani economy is already struggling with fast-shrinking foreign exchange reserves and steep inflation, which touched 27.3 percent in August, a five-decade high.

Several countries have pledged support to Pakistan. Officials said more than 50 special flights carrying aid have arrived so far in the country and more are scheduled in the coming days.

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