Pakistan has a history of floods, earthquakes, landslides, heat waves, drought and extreme cold. That is because the South Asian country is prone to natural hazards, which affect millions of its inhabitants each year.
In 2022, Pakistan experienced one of the deadliest floods in living memory, which caused widespread destruction across the nation. The ravaging flood waters destroyed buildings, roads, bridges, villages, farmland and crops. Tragically, the disaster has claimed the lives of over 1,730 people, including over 600 children.
This has prompted many to wonder, why does Pakistan suffer more in disaster? We will provide a summary in this article.
How bad were the 2022 floods in Pakistan?
All four provinces were affected by the disastrous flooding in 2022. From June of that year, Pakistan saw heavy monsoon downpours, for weeks on end. This triggered flash flooding across the country, which was so serious, that the Pakistani Government declared a state of national emergency.
In fact, after visiting flood-affected areas of Pakistan, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “I have seen many humanitarian disasters in the world, but I have never seen climate carnage on this scale.”
The floods have unfortunately created a humanitarian crisis in Pakistan. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless, as their homes and villages have been swept away. 33 million people have fallen into poverty, with a further 9 million expected to join them in 2023.
One third of the country (an area the size of Croatia) remains submerged underwater.
Food insecurity was already rife, but now, the floods have contaminated food supplies, caused widespread food shortages, and hiked up food prices. For example, the price of onions, an essential ingredient in Pakistani cuisine, has increased more than fivefold. Meanwhile, in the southern province of Sindh, there has been an estimated loss of 1.8 million tons of rice (which is 80% of its total rice production).
Around 21 million acres of crops have been swamped by the floods, which has deteriorated the economic condition of rural families. It will take years to rejuvenate this farmland, after such intense flooding. Livestock loss is also increasing rapidly, with over 727,000 cattle killed in the floods, causing a shortage of meat and milk products.
Water sources and water supply lines have been damaged by the floods, giving people no option but to drink polluted water, as the flood waters can carry silt, raw sewage and bacteria.
Among surviving populations, waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid are spreading fast, but there is no medical care available to treat these. With hospitals and clinics destroyed or overwhelmed after the floods, hundreds of people are dying from flood-related ailments. Following the floods, there is also a greater risk of catching infectious diseases such as Leptospirosis (which is spread through the urine of infected animals).
Additionally, the floods have devastated the economy in Pakistan. The natural disaster has inflicted a staggering $30 billion in damages and economic losses, and further economic damage is expected.
Across many communities in Pakistan, there is a huge sense of despair and hopelessness, as thousands of people have lost everything they ever had. Unfortunately, a mental health crisis is rampant.
Many survivors are anxious, traumatised and depressed, as the floods have deprived them of their homes, livelihoods, assets, and good health. According to the Sindh Mental Health Authority, there has been a surge in people seeking psychiatric treatment, due to uncertain and deteriorating socioeconomic conditions.
Thus, the 2022 floods had calamitous repercussions in Pakistan, in people’s lives, for the land, and the economy.
Why does Pakistan suffer more in disaster?
Pakistan is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, which are largely unpredictable and unavoidable. In fact, the country has been flooded 67 times since 1947, and it is prone to more flooding and natural disasters in the future.
So, why does Pakistan suffer more in disasters? Here are a few reasons why:
As a result of climate change
Climate change is a huge threat to Pakistan. The human-induced climate crisis helped drive the devastating floods of 2022.
Pakistan only contributes less than 1% of global carbon emissions, yet it is a country which is one of the worst-affected by climate change. Scientists believe that climate change increased the intensity of the monsoon rainfall, and has made heat waves 30 times more likely to happen.
As we pump more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, this makes the earth hotter. The climate change crisis disproportionately affects Pakistan, as the ongoing global warming has caused the average annual temperature in Pakistan to increase by about 0.5°C since 1970.
Melting glaciers in the Himalayas also worsened flooding in Pakistan, as they increased the volume of water submerging the land and caused the formation of thousands of glacial lakes which are at risk of bursting. In one northern mountain village, a melting glacier came cascading down and enveloped the area in water, washing away hydro plants and a bridge that connected the remote community to the outside world.
Unpreparedness for extreme weather conditions
It is a huge, overwhelming challenge for any country to cope with extreme weather conditions.
However, Pakistan has a lack of funding and resources to cope with such unexpected natural disasters. The country is one of the largest countries in Asia, with a population exceeding 231.6 million.
Pakistan is particularly susceptible to rapidly shifting weather patterns, which we have seen throughout the country’s history of natural disasters. For instance, in August 2022, national rainfall was 243% above average. This ‘monster’ monsoon caused flash flooding and deadly landslides across Pakistan, and the River Indus, which runs through the country, eventually swelled and burst its banks.
Such intense flooding was preceded by a dangerously hot heatwave, where temperatures soared as high as 49.5 °C. So, many communities across Pakistan were ill-prepared for excessive monsoon rains to fall, just weeks after an intense spring heatwave.
As we have seen with the 2022 floods, the infrastructure of the country is not resilient enough to withstand natural hazards. In many low-income areas, maximum safety is usually accompanied by higher costs, which is undesirable or unfeasible many vulnerable communities.
Survivors are also calling for be improved communication from environmental protection agencies, so that people can be warned and supported in time, when natural disasters do arise.
Fortunately, the Pakistani Government is working on flood defense, disaster management and evacuation plans, to reduce casualties and mitigate the impact of future disasters.
Natural disasters greatly exacerbate the suffering of people who are already financially struggling or living in poverty. The 2022 floods have been particularly disastrous for people who are dependant on agricultural income to survive, as they have lost their homes, farmland, crops, livestock, assets and livelihoods.
Additionally, the aftermath of natural disasters is particularly dangerous in Pakistan. Flood-related problems cause so much suffering in people’s lives, even after the floodwaters have receded.
For instance, people living close to floodwaters have high exposure to scorpions and poisonous snakes, as well as bites from mosquitos and stray dogs. This is another disaster in itself, as flood survivors can become very ill or even die from ailments such as malaria and venomous snake bites.
How is Zohra Foundation helping people affected by the floods in Pakistan?
As you can see, Pakistan urgently requires humanitarian aid. It is a low-income, developing nation which is striving to lift people out of poverty and difficult financial circumstances.
But, Pakistan can’t do this alone. The vulnerable people in Pakistan desperately need financial assistance, to repair their lives, following the devastating floods of 2022.
The floods have left thousands of people in a state of misery, despair and hopelessness. With no shelter, food, clean water, adequate sanitation or medical care, these people have little chance of surviving this crisis.
Our team is currently on the ground in Pakistan, distributing aid such as cooked meals, clean water, kitchen utensils, medicines, tents and hygiene kits, to help people recover from this devastating natural disaster. We have also started rebuilding homes, to offer shelter, safety and comfort to people who have been displaced during this tragedy.
We are grateful for every donation we receive. Your donations are funding the essential supplies that so many vulnerable people urgently need at this moment, after a natural disaster wrecked their lives.
Read more content about the 2022 floods in our Pakistan and our humanitarian work
To learn more, read the following articles and web pages:
- What caused Pakistan floods?
- Which parts of Pakistan are flooded?
- How can we stop floods in Pakistan?
- How can I donate online in Pakistan?
- How to sponsor an orphan in Pakistan
- Is Pakistan running out of water?
- Pakistan Appeals
- Pakistan Donations
- Pakistan Poverty
Donate to Zohra Foundation
Zohra Foundation is a London-based, UK-registered charity organization that aims to improve the lives of millions of orphans, widows and the elderly throughout Pakistan and respond to emergencies in other parts of the world.
Our team is currently delivering emergency relief across Pakistan, following the devastating 2022 floods.
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We hope we have answered the question ‘why does Pakistan suffer more in disaster?’