US President Joe Biden has urged the international community to help “underwater” Pakistan as it struggles with unprecedented floods, citing the need to address the climate change crisis that has hit many countries. In his address to the UN General Assembly, he announced over $2.9 billion in new assistance to address global food insecurity.
“We all know we’re already living in a climate crisis. No one seems to doubt it after this past year. We meet – we meet – as we meet, much of Pakistan is still underwater; it needs help,” Biden said in his address to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday.
The President in his address asked the world to help the inundated country where 1,576 persons have died and thousands of others have been injured since June 14.
A third of Pakistan, which is facing its worst floods in the past 30 years, is submerged in water, affecting 33 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads, and livestock, and causing an estimated USD 30 billion of damage.
“Families are facing impossible choices, choosing which child to feed and wondering whether they’ll survive. This is the human cost of climate change. And it’s growing, not lessening,” said Biden in the presence of Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Sharif, thanking Biden “for highlighting the plight of the flood victims in Pakistan“, in a tweet on Thursday urged the world for an “immediate response”.
Sharif will address the UNGA session on September 23, focusing on the challenges faced by Pakistan in the wake of the recent climate-induced catastrophic floods.
Biden also announced another USD 2.9 billion for a fund aimed at helping to resolve global food insecurity, in addition to the “USD 6.9 billion assistance to support global food security already committed this year”.
The President in his address said as many as 193 million people around the world were “experiencing acute – acute food insecurity – a jump of 40 million in a year”.
“And we’re calling on all countries to refrain from banning food exports or hoarding grain while so many people are suffering. Because in every country in the world, no matter what else divides us, if parents cannot feed their children, nothing – nothing else matters if parents cannot feed their children,” Biden stressed.
He emphasised that his administration was working with Congress to deliver more than USD 11 billion a year to international climate finance to help lower-income countries implement their climate goals and ensure a just energy transition.
He said the aid would help half a billion people, especially in vulnerable countries, adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience.
Separately, EU Commission President Ursala von der Leyen in a meeting with Sharif on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York expressed grief over the loss of lives in ravaging floods and pledged “new humanitarian aid in the coming weeks”.
During a private meeting of world leaders on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that efforts to keep the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels were “on life support”.
“We have all seen the appalling images from Pakistan, and this is just at 1.2 degrees of global warming and we are heading for over 3 degrees,” the UN chief said at the meeting at UN Headquarters in New York.
Pakistan and the United Nations are expected to announce the revision of the flash appeal early next month for more funds to cope with the devastating floods since the original appeal seeking funding of USD 160 million was not sufficient considering the size of the catastrophe, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Julien Harneis told the media.
“Over the next 10 days, the United Nations and Pakistan would be revising upward the flash appeal as now we need more funds,” said Harneis, adding that Pakistan faced a cascading “second disaster” from diseases as well as malnutrition.
The call for more funds came amid reports that stagnant floodwaters have led to widespread cases of skin and eye infections, diarrhea, malaria, typhoid, and dengue fever, Geo News reported.
Harneis said people in flood-hit areas were facing different problems, including polluted water and swarms of mosquitoes.
According to the UN humanitarian coordinator, the financial tracking service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs showed that education, logistics, and protection clusters had so far remained unfunded against the requirement of USD 10.2 million for education; USD 1.1 million for logistics, and USD 13.2 million for protection.
Meanwhile, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has approved USD 10 million to ensure access and distribution of medicines and health services in Pakistan.