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UN chief ‘overwhelmed by scale of devastation’ from floods: PM Shehbaz Sharif

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UN chief ‘overwhelmed by scale of devastation’ from floods: PM Shehbaz Sharif
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inquires after a child on his visit to flood affected areas in Pakistan, alongside PM Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/@CMShehbaz
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inquires after a child on his visit to flood affected areas in Pakistan, alongside PM Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/@CMShehbaz

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday said that the devastation from floods in Pakistan has “overwhelmed” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who just concluded his two-day visit to the flood-hit areas of the country.

The UNSG expressed solidarity with the flood victims and stressed the need for global support for Pakistan in this time of need, saying that the international body’s help is “a drop in the ocean” compared to what is needed to rebuild.

Taking to Twitter, PM Shehbaz Sharif thanked Guterres for his “unprecedented support” to the flood victims in Pakistan.

“During his visit to the flood-affected areas and camps under scorching heat, the UN secretary general was overwhelmed by the scale of devastation that has engulfed Pakistan,” the premier wrote on Twitter.

He said that the UN chief’s voice has become the voice of flood victims.

Urging the international community to help Pakistan deal with the natural catastrophe and cut carbon emissions, PM Shehbaz Sharif said that the world should pay heed to what the UN chief said about climate change.

“His [Guterres] two-day visit has been critical in raising awareness about the human tragedy. Deeply touched by his empathy and leadership. Pakistan needs global support to overcome this challenge,” the prime minister wrote.

‘Pakistan paying price of something created by others’

Guterres, while visiting the flood-hit areas on Saturday, said that the devastation caused by floods was beyond imagination.

He visited flood-affected areas in Sindh and Balochistan, stressing on developed nations to assist Pakistan as the international body’s help is “a drop in the ocean” compared to what was needed to rebuild.

Nearly 1,400 people have died in flooding that covers a third of the country — an area the size of the United Kingdom — wiping out crops and destroying homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

Guterres hopes his visit will galvanise support for Pakistan, which needs at least $10 billion to repair the damaged infrastructure.

The UNSG, in a conversation with journalists in Sukkur, said that there needs to be a serious discussion on loss and damages as “what the UN is doing in Pakistan is a drop in the ocean of what is needed”.

“We are perfectly aware of our limited capacity and our resources. But you can absolutely be sure about one thing as we are in total solidarity with the Pakistani people.”

The UN chief said that he will ask the international community to ensure that they help Pakistan “now” while vowing to raise awareness about the disastrous situation.

Pakistan receives heavy — often destructive — rains during its annual monsoon season, which is crucial for agriculture and water supplies. But downpours as intense as this year have not been seen for decades.

“It is not a matter of generosity, but a matter of justice,” he said, reiterating the UN’s commitment, strong support and solidarity with the flood-affected populace of Pakistan.

Guterres said that huge damages and losses were caused by the floods to human lives and properties. He stressed that the international community must realise the serious impacts of greenhouse emissions as nature was striking back in the form of natural calamities.

Greenhouse gases have accelerated climate change and the nations with larger greenhouse emission footprints must understand these issues, Guterres added.

António Guterres said the UN will strongly advocate for “debt swaps”, with IMF and World Bank through which developing countries like Pakistan instead of paying a debt to foreign creditors will be able to use that money to invest in climate resilience, investments in sustainable infrastructure and green transition of their economies.

He said: “We will go on strongly advocating for these solutions in the meetings with IMF and World Bank, which will take place soon. And, also in G-20 meeting.”

Speaking to journalists, alongside Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah in Karachi, Guterres said: “We have declared war on nature and thus we see here in Pakistan that nature is striking back with devastating consequences.”

The UNSG said that he had seen many humanitarian disasters in the world but “have never seen climate carnage on this scale.”

“I have simply no words to describe what I have seen today,” he said. He highlighted that the flood-hit area is three times the total area of his country — Portugal.

Guterres recognised that the needs are enormous, therefore, he urged “massive and urgent financial support” for Pakistan.

“This is not just a question of solidarity or generosity, it is a question of justice. Pakistan is paying the price of something that was created by others,” he maintained.

The United Nations has already launched an appeal for $160 million in aid to help Pakistan cope with the disaster.

In a tweet earlier, the UNSG said developing nations are paying a “horrific price” for the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. “Pakistan and other developing countries are paying a horrific price for the intransigence of big emitters that continue to bet on fossil fuels,” Guterres said.

“From Islamabad, I am issuing a global appeal: Stop the madness. Invest in renewable energy now. End the war with nature.”

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