This past summer, amid unprecedented rainfall, Pakistan, home to more than 220 million people, was struck by the most severe flood the country has seen in its recent history. As of September 13, more than 33 million people have been impacted by the flood, which ravaged the country’s infrastructure, destroyed millions of homes, and exposed the affected populations to infectious diseases. As of the same date, around 1,400 people have died.
Dams and dikes were overwhelmed as persistent rainfall led to a dramatic rise in river levels. As the infrastructure fell apart, billowing tides inundated a third of the South Asian country. Numerous Pakistani cities were engulfed in contaminated water, including Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city. The city is now facing an outbreak of Dengue fever as a result of the flooding.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has declared the flooding in Pakistan a humanitarian crisis for children, with approximately 16 million children exposed to risks of drowning, deadly waterborne diseases, and malnutrition due to the lack of supplies in the region. The devastating effects of the flood worsen the pre-existing crisis of malnourishment that affects 40 per cent of Pakistani children, as revealed in a UNICEF press release.
Among the infrastructure swept away by the flood are 18,000 schools, rendering education an inaccessible service to many young learners in Pakistan’s most affected regions.
Food and water are both pressing concerns in the crisis. The flood has contaminated around 30 per cent of freshwater sources in affected regions. In addition, an estimated 70 per cent of staple crops have been destroyed by the flood, creating a risk of widespread food shortage.
Most developing countries across the globe, such as Pakistan, are far more vulnerable to natural disasters than their developed counterparts. Such countries have limited access to methods that increase their climate resilience, which is defined by a country’s ability to prepare for, react to, and recover from various natural disasters.
University of Toronto Mississauga’s Geography, Geomatics, and Environment professor, Amrita Daniere, explains that the lack of fiscal resources is a critical reason as to why developing countries may have limited climate resilience. Professor Daniere states, “Having very low incomes would make [the country] more vulnerable because a lot of the kinds of strategies people come up with for investing in creating resilient places, like protecting people, building structures that are above a certain water level, and investing in lots of nature-based infrastructure […] cost[s] money.”
Daniere believes that well-off countries such as Canada should offer financial assistance to developing countries to progress their climate resilience—considering that such wealthy countries are also the most responsible for disrupting the Earth’s ecosystem.
According to data compiled by the World Bank, in 2019, Canada’s carbon dioxide emissions reached 15.4 tonnes per person, compared to Pakistan’s 0.88 tonnes per person. Canada is only one of many developed countries that are responsible for most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. “And yet, who’s being kicked out of their homes? Pakistanis, ” says Professor Daniere as she points out the inequity faced by Pakistanis in regard to the consequences of climate change.
Years of mistreatment and neglect of the Earth’s ecosystem has caused horrific crises, extreme weather, and natural disasters. With the upcoming 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, set to take place from November 6 to November 18 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, it is vital that world leaders properly define the effects of climate change and take concrete actions.