ISLAMABAD (AP) — Planes carrying fresh supplies are making a humanitarian airlift to flood-ravaged Pakistan as the death toll topped 1,200, officials said Friday, with families and children at particular risk from disease and homeless.
The ninth flight from the United Arab Emirates and the first from Uzbekistan was the last to land in Islamabad overnight as a military-backed rescue operation elsewhere in the country reached more than 3 million people affected by the disaster. Many officials have blamed the unusual monsoon and floods on climate change, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who earlier this week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” into the deadly crisis.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that the planes were carrying food, medicine and tents. Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif had planned to travel to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, but postponed the trip to visit flood-hit areas at home.
So far, Pakistan has received aid from China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates and some other countries. This week, the United States also announced it would provide $30 million worth of aid to flood victims.
Pakistan blames climate change for recent heavy monsoon rains that have caused flooding.
Asim Iftikhar, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, told a press conference the day before that the crisis had lent credibility to scientists’ warnings about climate change.
“This is not a conspiracy, it is reality and we have to pay attention to it,” he said.
According to initial government estimates, the disaster has caused $10 billion in damages.
Since 1959, Pakistan has emitted about 0.4 percent of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, compared with 21.5 percent from the United States and 16.4 percent from China, according to scientists and experts. Pakistani officials and experts say there has been a 400% increase in average rainfall in parts of Pakistan such as Balochistan and Sindh, which has led to the extreme flooding.
Earlier this week, the United Nations and Pakistan jointly appealed for $160 million in emergency funding to help the 3.3 million people affected by the floods that have destroyed more than 1 million homes.
On Friday, authorities warned people in the Dadu district of southern Sindh province to move to safer places ahead of flooding from the swollen Indus River expected to hit the area this week.
In May, some parts of Sindh were the hottest place in Pakistan. Now people are facing floods where they have caused an outbreak of waterborne diseases. Although flood waters continued to recede in most of the country, many areas in Sindh remained submerged.
Farah Naureen, director for Pakistan at the international aid agency Mercy Corps, told The Associated Press that about 73,000 women would give birth in the next month and needed skilled birth attendants, privacy and birthing facilities. Otherwise, he said, the survival of the mother and the newborn will be at risk.
Rescuers, backed by troops, resumed rescue and relief operations early Friday, according to the military. Rescuers are mostly using boats, but helicopters are also flying in to evacuate stranded people from remote towns, villages and flood-hit areas in Pakistan and deliver food to them.