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KARACHI: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has announced that the coalition government plans to hold a donors’ conference for raising funds for the reconstruction of civic infrastructure, houses, schools, and hospitals damaged by the floods.

He said that 33 million Pakistanis (or one in seven people) have been badly affected by the unprecedented rains and floods, and the cumulative damages have been estimated at $30 billion. “We are estimating the losses but the actual survey will take place when the inundated areas are cleared,” he said.

The chairman of Pakistan People’s Party stated this while addressing a press conference at the Chief Minister House on Thursday. He was accompanied among others by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Sindh PPP President Senator Nisar Khuhro, Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro, Saeed Ghani, Murtaza Wahab, and Adviser to the CM Rasool Bux Chandio.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said a huge part of the country is still facing inundation as floods are far from over, with floodwaters from Balochistan continuing to reach areas in Sindh.

He added that 50 percent of the flooded areas have been cleared, but various towns and settlements in Sindh, Balochistan, Southern Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are still under water. “Our KN Shah, Kotdiji, and various other towns and cities (are still) looking like the sea.”

It was not a riverine flood, he said, but was the result of heavy downpours that displaced a population of 33 million people — equivalent to the population of the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, said the foreign minister.

“Now, the stagnant water has started (causing the outbreak of) waterborne diseases, by breeding mosquitoes,” he said and added that floods have damaged 10 percent of the health facilities infrastructure. Therefore, the services have been affected but even then 3.8 million people have been provided medical treatment through special medical camps.

The PPP chairman said that one-third of the country’s areas have been inundated but some politicians instead of helping the affected people are playing politics, demanding elections, and trying to subvert the government’s efforts to rescue and rehabilitate the affectees.

Not only have a large number of people been displaced by the floods but their standing crops over millions of acres have been washed away, said Mr Bhutto-Zardari. The country is facing multiple losses, such as economic loss, loss of lives.

He agreed to a suggestion that the authorities have not yet reached each and every affected person. “The catastrophe is so huge that if an affected person has been provided a tent, he has not been given any mosquito net. If a person has been given rations, he has not been given water; and if he has got water his cattle cannot be given fodder,” he said. “But still we were trying to provide relief goods to each and every flood victim.”

He thanked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for “owning each and every person affected by floods”. “He owns the entire Pakistan and feels the pain of each and every person hit by the floods.” He pointed out that the premier had visited many affected areas and met the people there.

The minister said that the world community was ready to help but deplored that some politicians were hatching conspiracies and giving irresponsible statements to stop the international assistance from reaching the affected people. “But, this will not affect us because we have reconstructed and restored the cordial relationship with all the countries that were vitiated by the PTI chairman during his tenure as prime minister,” he said.

The foreign minister also thanked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his visit to the affected areas to witness the magnitude of the catastrophe. “He visited the flooded areas, met with the people living in the camps, visited health facilities, and went to visit Mohenjo-daro, which that also been damaged by downpours.”

The foreign minister also thanked US President Joe Biden, for his support for the affected people. He did not agree with a journalist when he said the international community is not doing enough for the affected people.

“We are requesting the international community to help rescue and rehabilitate the flood-affected people and they are voluntarily and willingly helping,” he said.

He praised the provincial government for convincing the World Bank to come over and help reconstruct the collapsed houses at a cost of Rs110 billion. “The provincial government has taken the lead in reaching the donor agency and convincing them for the solid support,” he said.

The PPP chief was of the view that the Sindh government had done a commendable job by discharging the stagnant water speedily. “By end of November, we will be ready to cultivate the Rabi crop and Insh Allah will help the small growers to reclaim their lands and make them fit for cultivation,” he said.

In response to a question, he said: “We might not have developed a model village or town in the province, but the development we have carried out speaks volume of their quality and services... We have developed Thar, and tapped the black gold (coal) for power generation.”

He, however, agreed that much more needed to be done for the people of the province.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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