In 2022, heavy monsoon rains hit Pakistan, causing flash floods. The climate disaster led to heavy damages to houses, infrastructure, farming, and communication. About 33 million people in Pakistan were affected more than 1,700 died, and over 12,000 were injured. The United Nations and other disaster response agencies quickly responded. However, one year down the line, there seems to be a wide gap between the funding commitment and action on the ground.
The province of Sindh, located in the southern region of Pakistan and home to around 55 million population, has been at the forefront of successive climate disasters in Pakistan. Its population and infrastructure were hit by super floods in 2010 and rain-floods in 2011. For Pakistan, Sindh is an economically important province. It contributes a substantial 27% to Pakistan’s GDP and plays a vital role in ensuring food security through the province’s agriculture sector. The sector employs 70% of Sindh’s labour force. However, beneath these economic achievements lurk a dismal picture. Approximately 37% of the rural population in Sindh is grappling with poverty, a figure that soars even higher in flood-prone districts, reaching an alarming 40% to 60%, as stated by World Bank. Access to essential services like healthcare, clean water, education, and electricity remains a pressing concern. Additionally, Sindh’s geographic location, climatic conditions, and socioeconomic vulnerability make it highly susceptible to natural disasters.
According to a comprehensive Post-Disaster Needs Assessment conducted by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and other agencies, Sindh’s overall recovery needs following the 2022 floods amounted to an astounding US$7.9 billion. This surpasses the post-flood recovery requirements of all other provinces of Pakistan. Damages to houses and infrastructure in Sindh during the floods reached US$5.5 billion. A funding gap of $0.872 billion remains despite contributions from the World Bank and the government of Sindh.
The World Bank has allocated $1.692 billion for five projects aimed at rehabilitation of the flood-affected areas in Sindh. These projects encompass housing reconstruction, water and agriculture development, social protection enhancements, and healthcare improvements. The Sindh Flood Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project also focuses on providing grants for the construction of resilient housing units, incorporating rainwater harvesting and sanitation systems to improve living conditions. Additionally, the project focuses on upgrading water supply and sanitation infrastructure to provide safe, treated water and mitigate future flooding risks.
The floods also took a heavy toll on agriculture and food production, causing a surge in food prices, shortages, and job losses. Over 4.4 million acres of agricultural land became unproductive, and irrigation and flood protection systems for half a million farmers were severely damaged. Livestock losses were staggering, with around 249,000 animals, including cows and poultry loss, equating to a monetary cost of $117.3 million. Transportation and road networks suffered severe damage, impeding mobility and access to essential services.
Sindh plans to deal with the loss in livelihood through the World Bank-funded Sindh Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project which aims to rehabilitate damaged infrastructure, provide short-term livelihood opportunities, and enhance government disaster response capabilities. The project’s planned beneficiaries include – two million people, with 50% women – in the poorest districts that suffered the most severe flood consequences.
UNICEF estimated that around 16,000 schools in Sindh province were harmed or demolished during the 2022 floods, representing more than half of the total damaged schools nationwide. The floods have seriously disrupted education in Sindh, leaving millions of children without access to schools. Additionally, the situation worsened as many schools were turned into temporary shelters for the displaced flood-affectees. Only around 2,000 schools are currently undergoing reconstruction, supported by contributions from donors, including the Asian Development Bank.
After the 2022 devastating floods and the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva on January 9, 2023, several international donors stepped up with vital financial support. The Islamic Development Bank pledged a substantial US$4.2 billion, the World Bank committed US$2 billion, and Saudi Arabia offered US$1 billion. Additional support came from the European Union, China, France, and the United States. The projects valued at US$16.3 billion in the Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework (4RF), which secured funding commitments during the Geneva Conference, primarily address damages as well as measures to bolster resilience in sectors like water infrastructure, irrigation, road networks, and rail transportation.
On September 27, 2023, the UN General Assembly held an informal meeting in New York to evaluate the progress of the UN appeal for funding made in the aftermath of the floods. Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, Munir Akram, pointed out that Pakistan has received $563 million, covering 69 per cent of the requested $816 million. Pakistan has expressed hope that it will receive full funding against all the flood rehabilitation commitments.
While the multibillion-dollar relief and rehabilitation plan claims to be an answer to the grievances of the flood affectees of Pakistan and Sindh, in particular, socio-economic inequalities and systemic deficits in Pakistan’s emergency response mechanisms repeatedly reinforce vulnerabilities of the communities affected by the floods. A recent rapid assessment by The Knowledge Forum, a Karachi-based think tank, documents first-hand accounts of the experiences, concerns and perceptions of flood-affected population and other stakeholders in Sindh. The rapid assessment survey points to glaring examples of neglect and oversight. According to the survey, multiple layers of marginalisation covering gender, religious minorities, asset-less farm workers, persons with disabilities, children and older persons were hardly considered when relief and rehabilitation efforts were organised. Respondents interviewed repeatedly highlighted a complete lack of meaningful inclusion, participation or consultation by the government or aid organisations with the vulnerable communities to gauge their needs or concerns before launching relief and rehabilitation efforts in Sindh. Moreover, even though the vulnerable communities – including small land owners, women family farm workers, and most importantly sharecroppers – had suffered comparatively more hardships by most accounts, no specific measures had been taken for them despite their additional vulnerabilities.
Pakistan marks the first anniversary of the 2022 floods in the midst of an intensified discourse about the responsibility of the global climate crisis, and the need, scale and access to the loss and damage fund. While the government and the funding agencies have been struggling to initiate post-flood rebuilding, there have been consistent calls by experts to design strategies that not only help those most seriously affected by the current climate crisis, but also deliver a template for systematically addressing the vulnerabilities that the climate change affectees typically face.