Extent of flood evolution on August 4 (left) and August 28 (right), 2022, Sindh province, Pakistan. Source: NASA earth observatory

One Year Later, Pakistan Struggles to Recover from the 2022 Floods

A year after the 2022 floods, Pakistan is far from a full recovery. The aftermath of the disaster is still evident throughout the country, with survivors living in makeshift homes, millions of children out of school, and damaged infrastructure awaiting repair. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that millions of people, including 4 million children, still need humanitarian aid in the affected areas and more than 10 million people still lack access to safe drinking water. Many of the hardest-hit districts were already among the poorest and most vulnerable places in Pakistan.

The rains caused devastating flash floods and landslides across the country, claiming over 1,700 lives and affecting more than 33 million people. Hitting amid multiple global shocks, including crises of food, energy, and cost of living, rising inflation, and COVID-19, the floods have caused the country over $30 billion in economic loss, displaced more than 8 million people, and led to the destruction of nearly a million houses across the country. The provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the territories of Azad Jammu and Kashmir were among the most affected areas.

In January 2023, Pakistan co-hosted a high-level international donor conference in Geneva with the United Nations to raise money for rebuilding flood-affected areas. Dozens of countries and international organizations have pledged more than $9 billion to help Pakistan recover, but most of the pledges are loans for projects that are still in the planning stages. Additionally, the Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP), a government initiative, appealed for $816.3 million to provide essential multi-sectoral aid and protection to 9.5 million people in affected areas. As of October 2023, donors had funded only 69.8% of the required budget.

Climate change was not the only factor that contributed to the severity of the flooding in Pakistan. Experts claim that the Pakistani government is paying the price for years of neglect. Corruption, mismanagement of water resources, lack of infrastructure, and weak governance have all contributed to the crisis, which has disproportionately impacted the poorest and middle classes.

The Pakistani government has established a National Flood Response and Coordination Center to coordinate the multi-agency response with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). It has also set up camps for displaced people and provided cash assistance to those affected. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), a government poverty reduction initiative, has made one-time cash payments of PKR 25,000 ($90) to over 2.7 million flood-affected families.

Flooding emergencies are logistically challenging because standing water, washed-out roads and bridges, and damaged infrastructure make it difficult for rescuers and aid providers to reach people. The response to the 2022 floods involved military, civilian, national, international, and local actors working together to meet the immediate and medium-term needs of those affected.

The United Nations identified 5.2 million people in urgent need of humanitarian aid and issued a Flash Appeal for $160 million to support the Pakistan Floods Response Plan. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called for massive international support and urged the world to take stronger action against climate change. “Let’s stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change,” Guterres said. “Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country,” he added.

The floods have occurred amid a deteriorating economic crisis in Pakistan. In 2020, 40% of 240 million people in the country were food insecure, and poverty is concentrated in rural areas, which have been disproportionately affected by the floods. The World Bank estimated that the floods could increase Pakistan’s national poverty rate by 2.5 to 4 percent, pushing an additional 5.8 to 9 million people into poverty. This has made poverty worse for already poor households, especially women.

Despite all the efforts made, it will be difficult for Pakistan to recover from the devastating floods of last year in the near future, given its economic turmoil and balance of payment crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan owes its creditors more than $77 billion, which must be repaid in the next three years.