“If there is any doubt about loss and damage, go to Pakistan,” he told delegates at the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan. “There is loss. There is damage. The devastation of climate change is real. From floods and droughts to cyclones and torrential rains. And as always, the least responsible countries are the first to suffer.”
More than 33 million affected
More than 33 million people were affected by the floods in Sindh and Balochistan, widely regarded as Pakistan’s worst climate catastrophe.
Even today, months after the initial emergency, floodwaters have only partially subsided and the disaster is far from over for some eight million people who were forced to flee the rising waters, which also killed more than 1,700 people.
More than 2.2 million homes were destroyed, along with 13 percent of all health facilities, 4.4 million hectares of crops and more than 8,000 kilometers of roads and other vital infrastructure – including about 440 bridges.
The cost of helping communities was hit in every way by Pakistan’s unprecedented monsoon rains that began last June,”will exceed $16 billionand much more will be needed in the longer term,” said the UN Secretary-General.
Vulnerable children affected
Parallel to the Geneva conference, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF highlighted the ongoing human cost of the emergency in Pakistan.
“Up to four million children still live near polluted and stagnant floodwatersrisking their survival and well-being,” the UN agency said.
Acute respiratory infections had “skyrocketed” in flood-stricken areas, UNICEF continued, while the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the same areas nearly doubled between July and December compared to 2021, adding several more 1.5 million young people still need life-saving nutritioninterventions.
Paying on the odds
The UN chief reiterated the need to help developing countries like Pakistan become more resilient to the impacts of climate change and urged the international banking system to be reformed “to right a fundamental wrong”.
He added: “Pakistan does doubly the victim of climate chaos and a morally bankrupt global financial system. That system routinely denies middle-income countries the debt relief and concessional financing needed to invest in resilience to natural disasters. And so we need creative ways for developing countries to access debt relief and concessional financing when they need it most.”
Joining Mr Guterres, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif explained why his country needs international solidarity now more than ever.
“We have to give back their future to 33 million people who have been severely affected by the floods,” he said. “Their families need to stay afloat and they need to get back to life and make a living.”
‘Tomorrow we could be the ones’
Ignazio Cassis, the representative of the conference’s host country, Switzerland, reasoned that supporting countries affected by natural disasters was wise: “Today it is you, Pakistan, who need help. But tomorrow it could be us, all of us. One thing is certain: none of us are safe. We are all concerned about climate change, a global threat that requires a global response.”
Following that call for solidarity between nations, French President Emmanuel Macron joined the conference via video link to announce that France had pledged €360 million “to respond to the challenge of restoring resilience and climate adaptation”.
But the French president also noted that only 30 percent of UN emergency requests had been submitted just as winter temperatures have plummeted.
Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), stressed the magnitude of the global threat posed by climate change and the relevance of the need to find climate adaptation funding for developing countries:
“Look east, in Australia, extraordinary flooding; look west in California, extreme weather, look at Europe, and people wonder what happened to snow in the winter, we live in rapidly changing times.”
Please see a joint press release from the UN Secretary General and Prime Minister of Pakistan at the conference below: