Islamabad, Pakistan — Pakistan‘s Prime Minister has thanked US President Joe Biden for his appeal to the international community to help the flood-ravaged South Asian nation.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Biden said that “much of Pakistan is under water… and needs help.”
“We don’t have much time left. We all know we’re already living in a climate crisis,” the US leader said when he announced a $2.9 billion fund for humanitarian and food security in the world for this year.
“Families are faced with impossible decisions, decide which child they want to feed and wonder whether they will survive. These are the human costs of climate change. And it’s growing, not less,” Biden said.
Pakistan is facing one of its worst humanitarian crises after record rains and melting glaciers have caused catastrophic floods there, affecting 33 million of its 220 million inhabitants.
The flood has killed nearly 1,600 people so far, including more than 300 who died from water-borne diseases caused by stagnant water. The UN has warned of an impending health disaster in the most affected areas.
Biden’s remarks at the UNGA came shortly after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called on the world to help the country fight the disaster.
“Thank you President Joe Biden for highlighting the plight of flood victims in Pakistan and calling for an immediate response from the world as my country faces the devastation of unprecedented floods,” Sharif wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“The cries for help from stranded women and children must be heeded.”
Officials in Pakistan, which is already suffering from a financial crisis, estimate the total loss caused by the floods at $30 billion.
Sharif, who is in New York for the UNGA summit, met several world leaders on the sidelines on Wednesday to discuss the consequences of the floods. He is expected to speak before the UNGA meeting on Friday.
In his opening speech at UNGA on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who visited Pakistan earlier this month, called on global leaders to consider “debt-reduction mechanisms” to help Pakistan.
“These (mechanisms) could have saved lives and livelihoods in Pakistan, which is not only drowning in floods but also in debt,” he said.
Pakistan must pay $1 billion in international bonds by December. His finance minister said earlier this week that the payment would be “absolutely” met.
In a press conference on Wednesday in Islamabad, Julien Harneis, UN-based and humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, said that there was a “second disaster in sight” in Pakistan where health, food and water were critical concerns.
“A lot is being done, but much more is needed. This is bigger than us, the needs are colossal,” he said, adding that the UN is working with the Pakistani government to revise its original $160 million appeal to support the country.
“Although the pledges have exceeded $160 million, we now find that the original appeal was not enough. We are working with the government to revise the appeal in the coming weeks, taking into account changing and growing needs,” he said.
Hollywood actress and activist Angelina Jolie, who represents the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, also visited the areas affected by floods in the Pakistani province of Sindh this week.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” the 47-year-old actress said during a meeting at Pakistan’s National Flood Response and Coordination Centre on Wednesday.
“This is a real wake-up call for the world. Climate change is not only real, but also very strong here.”