'We need to see climate justice': How climate change drowned Pakistan
A year following the largest natural disaster in its history, Pakistan continues to experience the devastating effects of its 2022 floods.
Last September, we visited Pakistan's worst flooded areas of Sindh to investigate how the reported 33 million people affected were coping with the disaster.
Despite a year passing since the start of the floods, UNICEF reports that eight million Pakistanis continue to need urgent humanitarian assistance due to malnutrition and disease.
Half of those still affected are children, with 1.5 million children currently facing life-threatening levels of malnutrition due to unsanitary conditions.
"40% of children in Sindh are experiencing stunted growth and 80% of mothers are reporting that their children are suffering from illnesses such as malaria, dengue, or diarrhoea"
Pakistan's 2022 floods were a stark reminder of how climate change affects vulnerable developing countries. Over a third of Pakistan was left submerged due to abnormally high levels of monsoon rain.
The World Meteorological Organisation attributed this to rising global carbon emissions with NASA scientists linking higher global temperatures to increased extreme flooding and droughts.
This disaster was not a singularity but rather an example of how climate change is structurally destroying the global ecosystem and the livelihoods of those living in vulnerable areas.
Abdullah Fadil, a UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, states: "As the [Pakistan] monsoon rains return, the fear of another climate disaster looms large."
Our time on the ground showed us the inhumane level of suffering faced by flood-affected locals. Our film conveys the abandonment felt by locals with families stranded in flooded buildings and hospitals overwhelmed by malaria, dengue fever and waterborne diseases.
We left Pakistan hoping that the country was on its way back to normality, however, new interviews from our local sources and data from international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) suggest that this is far from the truth.
Ayub, a local civil engineer who organised aid during the height of the floods, says that the Sindh province has been forgotten even by the Pakistani government in the capital Islamabad.
"People started going back home in April and May," Ayub says. "They [people] have suffered for a year. Many NGOs promised they would rebuild houses but [he estimates] only 10 percent have been rebuilt. People are restarting life on their own."
Sindh was the most affected province in 2022. It is considered the bread basket of Pakistan since it hosts the country's largest city, Karachi, and contains some of the most fertile land in the country.
The floods destroyed the livelihoods in rural Sindh — farmers could no longer work on the land. "These people don't have another source for earning. They don't have anything else," Ayub explained.
This is the main reason why millions of people remain homeless and malnutrition is a staple in Pakistani families. According to Islamic Relief, an NGO working on the ground, 40 percent of children in Sindh are experiencing stunted growth and 80 percent of mothers are reporting that their children are suffering from illnesses such as malaria, dengue, or diarrhoea. These figures suggest that Pakistan's health epidemic remains relatively unchanged from the height of the disaster last year.
Faheem, a local doctor in Sindh, told The New Arab that the mosquitoes have not disappeared despite water levels receding since last spring.
"[Diseases] are due to mosquitoes not being killed, [the] government is not taking serious steps to spray over [with pesticides] areas where mosquitoes are common."
One year later, Faheem says the healthcare system has completely collapsed with "several people dying in hospital because of lack of services at the hospital."
This health pandemic is not the only long-term impact of the 2022 floods with six million Pakistanis being pushed into poverty due to Pakistan's economic situation.
The damages of the floods have led to Pakistan's national debt skyrocketing to $125 billion, pushing the country's economy onto the edge of default.
On top of this, inflation has surged past 38 percent, although local sources remark that the real figure is much higher, leaving Pakistanis struggling to afford basic items.
Despite the flood's effects remaining prevalent, the United Nation's recovery plan remains severely underfunded with over 30 percent of the funds missing in all sectors.
Furthermore, UNICEF's revised aid appeal continues to have a shortfall of over 40 per cent at a time when Pakistan is on life support.
In summing up Pakistan's current situation, the CEO of Islamic Relief stated during the release of their one-year report on the floods: "No amount of financial aid can compensate [for] those who have lost loved ones and seen their homes and everything they own destroyed.
"But we need to see climate justice, where the biggest polluters pay for the damage and destruction caused by climate change."
Alexander Mackay is a freelance investigative journalist
Follow him on Instagram: @alexandermackay_
Omar Hamed Beato is a Spanish visual journalist who loves creating stories either in photo or video format. His main areas of interest are climate change, conflict, gender, nature, and migration
Follow him on Instagram: @theguyyoumetbefore
Ariana Tanimoto also contributed to the video. She is a freelance video editor based in Spain
Follow her on Instagram: @atanimo