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Editorial$10 billion losses and counting

$10 billion losses and counting

The world should respond to United Nations (UN) General Secretary Antonio Guterres’s appeal for the flood-hit people of Pakistan. He seeks $160 million immediately for the country, which he says “is awash in suffering”. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan held a fundraiser telethon and collected Rs500 million in an hour long marathon live broadcast. That is a welcome step, and hopefully, other political leaders would also follow suit. Not to forget, the armed forces are also at the forefront of rescue and relief activities. As the onslaught of floods and rains continues to devastate northern and now southern parts of the country unchallenged, the federal and provincial governments are scrambling to count losses so that relief and rehabilitation activities are planned. According to Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the rough estimate of flood-related losses to public instfratsure and people’s properties is not less than $10 billion. Other than the loss to the economy, up to 35 million people have been rendered homeless, while more than 1,000 people have died due to falling houses or being washed away in streams and rivers since June when the rains started. Around one million cattle have been killed and crops worth trillions of rupees, household appliances, roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure have been destroyed. These figures are the result of preliminary estimates, while after a complete survey, the actual losses may be much higher. The flood calamity poses a question: why federal, provincial and local governments are caught napping when the monsoon strikes Pakistan every year and the flood-related trail of death and destruction becomes a piece of normal news?

As the resources of federal and provincial governments and the army are limited, the government must play actively on diplomatic fronts to get immediate aid. One wonders why Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is visiting the flood-affected areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after Balochistan and Sindh when the government has nothing to offer the displaced people. Such VIPs’ visits hamper relief work as the administration has to spend resources on the protocol of the celebrities. Instead, the top government functionaries should spend time carefully planning the relief and reconstruction phases. Many countries have started sending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash aid in addition to food, medicine and other essential goods to Pakistan. The government lacks a mechanism to distribute foreign aid judiciously. First aid shipments from Turkey and the Arab Emirates have also arrived.  What is the need of the hour is that the aid should reach every affected person. Away from interior Sindh and Balochistan, where the national media have the least outreach and interest, all eyes are always on the urban parts of Sindh. It is time that all parts of Pakistan be given equal attention in terms of funds allocation and preparation to meet eventualities.

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