Saving flood-hit Pakistan has global implications: UNDP

The world must help Pakistan rebuild homes and livelihoods destroyed by devastating floods to secure hearts and minds in the nation, the UNDP’s regional head said.

Global cash pledges have been slow in coming to bolster rescue and relief efforts ongoing in the flood-damaged nuclear nation, where more than 21 million people have been affected by a month of monsoon-triggered floods.

Helping Pakistanis rebuild homes and businesses, reduced to rubble by the unprecedented deluge, will be even more important to long-term regional and global stability, said UN Assistant Secretary General Ajay Chhibber.

“Now that the water has receded in large parts… what’s clear from these visits is that the early recovery needs to start now,” said Chhibber, the Asia-Pacific head of the UN Development Programme, during a visit Monday to Khyber Pakhtunkwa.

“This is a country that is a very large, very important country in the region, a very large, very important country in the globe, so that battle for the hearts and minds of people here is very important.”

As Chhibber toured part of Nowshera town flattened by surging waters last month, one villager, Amanat Khan, stood helplessly next to a pile of broken bricks and wood that was his home until the floods smashed it to pieces.

“We’re completely paralysed with shock,” said the 42-year-old father of four, who also lost his job in a medical store to the waters.

“I trust in God Almighty he will help me but right now I have no idea how to rebuild my life.”

In Nowshera half a million people have been affected and more than 40,000 homes suffered some damage, along with 151 schools and 22 health centres.

After his visit Chhibber said: “You can see people milling around, they need things to do.”

The millions made homeless, many living in makeshift shelters, will need to be encouraged back to their land, even if their homes have been destroyed, in order to restore the social fabric of communities, said Chhibber.

An initial 100 million dollars would also be required to establish cash-to-work schemes, paying the landless poor to clear debris and begin rebuilding schools, community and health centres.

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of rich farmland, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year’s crops.

“Pakistan is also a bread basket of the world. The fact that we have one major crop devastated will also have a regional and global impact on grain markets,” said Chhibber, adding that grain markets were already reeling from fires in Russia that wiped out swathes of wheat.