Sarmad Ishfaq is an independent researcher and writer whose work has been published by Harvard Kennedy School Review, the Diplomat, Open Democracy, Paradigm Shift, Mondoweiss, and Eurasia Review to name a few. He has also been published by several international peer-reviewed journals such as Taylor and Francis' Social Identities. Before becoming an independent writer, he worked as a research fellow for the Lahore Center for Peace Research. He has a master's degree in International Relations from the University of Wollongong in Dubai where he was recognized as the 'Top Graduate'.
Pakistan is facing one of its worst natural disasters ever, which is and will be exacerbated by high inflation, low forex, unemployment, an uncertain IMF package, and massive political instability. According to Al Jazeera and CNN, around 33 million (out of 220 million) people have been impacted by the 2022 floods and around 1/3rd of Pakistan is under water. Around 1,200 people have died and over 1,600 injured.
In fact, it is apt to understand the floods and Pakistan’s economic and other woes in a cyclical manner i.e. the horrid economic conditions will adversely affect how we manage the flood-related damage; in turn, the 2022 floods have significantly undermined the already frail economy of Pakistan by increasing inflation and unemployment among other facets.
Furthermore, over 3100 km of roads have been destroyed, almost one million livestock have died, and over a million homes have either been damaged or destroyed. All four provinces as well as AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan have been affected. The loss of livestock, as well as 2 million acres of crops affected, means that Pakistan will face an upcoming shortage of food (wheat, rice, lamb, beef, chicken, etc.) which will subsequently increase inflation and poverty.
Risk of Diseases
Waterborne illnesses are surging and Pakistan’s already sub-par medical infrastructure will be hard-pressed to assist everyone effectively. In view of that, cholera vaccination needs to be carried out to counter any outbreaks. Measles could also easily spread in flood relief camps. Let’s not forget that COVID-19 was already rising in Pakistan prior to the 2022 floods and could expand further. The country’s hospitals and medical clinics are facing another COVID-esque situation due to flood victims as well as flood-related diseases.
Worst of all, however, are the villagers that are stranded and do not even have access to medicines, let alone hospitals or clinics. They are relying on medicines hand-delivered or flown to them by Pakistan’s Armed Forces, NGOs, and other charitable groups. On the ground, it would not be faux to call this a public health crisis.
Unemployment too will rise as many farmers, hotel staff, traders, shop owners, restaurant employees etcetera have been left without any means to provide for their families. This would not only mean that the bleak unemployment picture will grow bleaker but also that this could signal that some flood affectees, who have lost everything, might, in their extreme desperation, turn to crime.
Unemployment is already one of the main reasons for crime in the country and these devastating floods aim to further this fracture. Crime was already a burgeoning issue due to the rising prices and unemployment created in the previous 3-4 years. These floods could aggravate the law and order situation in the country. With the political instability and animosity against the current government already high, political upheaval, demonstrations, and even riots could be in the cards.
Rising Inflation Levels
As for inflation, it has already begun with prices for food items such as onions and tomatoes rising by 40% according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. It is reported that around 80% of the tomato crop has been damaged by the 2022 floods and Pakistan will have to rely on other countries for food items. In Karachi, flour prices have reached a tragic record of Rs 2140 per 20-kg bag. This is an issue since Pakistan is massively cash-strapped and inflation was already rampant before the floods.
Things are so bad that activists and politicians in the West have urged the world to forgo Pakistan’s financial debt and instead send in reparations to the developing country for this climate catastrophe primarily caused by the developed world. Financially, the government just does not have enough money to help flood affectees let alone steer Pakistan post-flooding.
A fortuitous sign has been the record donations collected by previous prime minister Imran Khan. So far, around Rs 5 billion has been collected by his efforts. Pakistanis especially overseas Pakistanis have a great history of supporting the country with cash and in-kind donations. This perhaps is the only silver lining right now. According to the government, the floods will result in over $10 billion in damages.
Pakistan’s total debt jumped to Rs 60 trillion, an upsurge of Rs 11.9 trillion or 25% compared to the previous fiscal year. The country’s forex reserves have dwindled to $7.69 billion in the first week of September 2022. The current government and the IMF have been stuck in a back-and-forth but the country is set to receive almost $1.2 billion which is much needed. However, experts state that this just won’t be enough to tackle these floods and the economic crisis.
More to Come
Worst of all, reports are stating that the flooding will not stop soon. Pakistan’s Met Office has reported that the country should be prepared for more inclement weather and flash floods this month. Dadu district in Sindh might become the latest victim of this catastrophe, with locals claiming that around 600 villages have already submerged there.
Meanwhile, residents of Mehar and Johi (in Dadu district) are trying their best to save their cities by forming new dikes and reinforcing existing ones, but alarms of flooding continue to ring and residents have been advised to evacuate. Pakistan is in need of a miracle, perhaps a few to survive this crisis.
Initially, Pakistan’s media failed to highlight how bad these floods were and kept the country fixated on the political disharmony between PTI and PDM. Only now have they begun showcasing the magnitude of these floods.
Paradigm Shift has a charity page that you can visit where we have listed down some organizations and individuals doing great work vis-à-vis flood relief. We must do whatever we can to help our brothers and sisters. May ALLAH protect us.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.