The economy, nutrition, and education are all under threat in Pakistan
By TAYLOR GREEN
Floods in Pakistan have led to the deaths of over 1,717 people, injuring 12,867, with property damage judged to exceed $40 billion. The floods first began in June 2022. Yet the floods persist and have been the world's deadliest since the 2020 South Asian floods. A tenth of Pakistan has been underwater, including major cities such as Sukkur, Larkana, Thari Mirwah, and K.N. Shar, with populations altogether totalling up to 1.7 million.
As a result of the flooding, Pakistan received aid from the UK in the form of a £10 million food relief package which began with a certain Liz Truss as foreign secretary. This comes with the history of the UK as a critical nation-state in assisting Pakistan in dealing with floods and natural disasters, especially in recent times.
Aid has also been received through the Coalition Support Fund, including nations like the United States, which has provided Pakistan with benefits through a commitment to operationalising counter-terrorism schemes. In addition, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have also lent aid for support during this national crisis.
The amount of initial damage incurred upon the people of Pakistan has amounted to the destruction of 2 million houses, resulting in 600,000 people resorting to taking shelter in relief camps set up by the government. In addition, vast numbers of roads have been highly damaged, along with 22,000 schools, whose children have already been set back by COVID. Many subsequently miss vital classroom learning in their formative years. Safeer, a 14-year-old, said, "it makes [her] cry when [she] sees [her] school in this condition." The director of Save the Children Pakistan, Khuram Gondal, believed the country could face a "complete loss of learning among this current generation." This could lead to a loss in education levels amongst the people of Pakistan and could prove detrimental to their reliance on skilled workers.
Amongst this issue, a healthcare crisis has also emerged. According to the World Health Organisation, there is a high risk of vector-borne diseases, skin infections, and malaria within the water. With health services reduced, many struggle to be treated. People are also suffering from the loss of livestock, with the floods devastating crop harvesting, thus reducing nutrition for large amounts of the population. It has also caused great devastation to the agrarian portion of the economy: agriculture amounts to 18.9% of Pakistan's total GDP and 42.3% of the total labour force. As a result, imports of foodstuff have shot up to 65.45%.
Many have been forced to seek private healthcare, though this is not a viable option for many in Pakistan that live below the poverty line. This could result in dissatisfaction amongst the public and lead to resentment toward the government, with much of the better services determined entirely by the capital of those willing to pay. Therefore the gap between the rich and poor will likely widen as well.
Key crops, like cotton, have perished. This will directly impact trade and businesses that require cotton in their production lines and therefore affect the globalised supply chains and costs of manufacturing. Cotton elsewhere is not as plentiful as it once was in Pakistan and, therefore, has already raised the price of the commodity, which will likely continue. This will affect many TNCs that rely on this natural resource in their product supply chains, with increasing global prices decreasing profits. Moreover, without a direct trade deal with India, the government has been forced to import essential foodstuffs from Afghanistan and Iran, including a vast 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes of rice.
Yet the necessity for trade could usher in a direct trade deal with either of those two countries. That would not be such a bad thing.
In fact, such devastation could even point to a closer relationship with Pakistan’s traditional enemy, India. As the situation worsened the Finance Minister, Miftah Ismail, considered importing vegetables and other foodstuffs from India. Closer ties could thus be reached because of a new found interdependence, and reduce the tension experienced throughout the region. Indeed, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, showed sympathy and expressed how he was "saddened to see the devastation". That provides some optimism amidst the storm.
The monsoons in the region have been caused mainly by high rainfall levels and temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. However, climate change has also been regarded as a significant factor in the cause of floods, with many other nations across the globe experiencing high levels of flooding.
Other possible causes could be linked to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which can enhance monsoonal rains and is believed to be at the precipice of the 2010 floods in the country. However, most climatologists hardly understand the direct effects of ENSO.
The coping capacity to previous natural disasters in Pakistan has been through flood protection methods. Dams have been the most common measure, yet Pakistan must improve flood security. ENSO cycles, however, mean the ability to predict when and what will happen with floods is low. Moreover, with Pakistan's struggling economic situation, it is hard to find investment in great flood protection methods that can create a superior coping capacity for the nation in the future.
Pakistan is sadly likely to see much detrimental change resulting from the continued flooding. Less educational attainment, poor nutrition, scarcer resources, and further economic challenges ahead could all lead to destabilisation and social disruption for the citizens. That is something profoundly worrying for a country already rocked by political instability.
Image: Flickr / Epjt Tours