Pakistan Floods: A Call for Global Solidarity
Over one-third of Pakistan currently lies underwater. Monsoon season has triggered catastrophic flooding, devastating villages, displacing over 33 million people, killing over 1,700 people, and sparking major disease outbreaks. In late August, the Pakistani government began working to provide aid to citizens by releasing national funds in the form of immediate cash relief. By August 30, the government created the 2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP) in collaboration with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which aims to provide life-saving resources including food, water, health services, shelter, and agricultural assistance. However, due to the scale of the flooding and a lack of resources, many people, including members of the Tufts community, continue to be impacted.
For example, for Pakistani students like senior Warisha Siddiqui, the initial news of massive floods led to worry about their families back home. “When I first heard about the floods, my immediate reaction was to call my mom and ask if anyone in our family was affected,” said Siddiqui. “Ever since then, I’ve been calling to ask for updates.”
However, Siddiqui feels that socioeconomic status played a great role in how she and her family were impacted. “We’ve been very lucky that none of our property was significantly damaged. Everyone just experienced a little bit of water damage,” Siddiqui said. “I think that really speaks to the privilege my family has as a middle-class family.”
While some communities have endured minor damage, over 4 million acres of crops nationwide were decimated, taking away a primary source of income for hundreds of thousands of families. Additionally, over 300,000 homes were washed away by the flooding.
A recent study by scientists affiliated with the World Weather Attribution, a research initiative that specifically studies severe weather anomalies, confirmed that the floods have been heavily exacerbated by climate change, becoming one of the worst environmental disasters in the world. As the earth heats up as a result of heat-trapping gasses released into the atmosphere, more water evaporates, intensifying the level of rainfall that occurs during monsoons. However, according to Boston-based Pakistani activist Muhammad Burhan, these floods are not receiving a commensurate level of international attention.
“This is an issue that needs the world’s attention right now. We are dealing with a humanitarian crisis, yet it is barely getting any international coverage,” Burhan said.
Burhan has been writing to multiple climate organizations in the US urging members to spread awareness and raise money for people in need. At a climate action protest on Wednesday, September 21, led by Extinction Rebellion Boston, Burhan spoke about the state of Pakistan. He critiqued the lack of news coverage as a result of the West’s tendency toward a very Eurocentric approach to climate change.
“If we compare the frequency of coverage as well as the amount of resources Pakistan received compared to those of other human disasters in Western countries, you will see a big difference,” Burhan said. “When we think about Pakistan, we don’t really think about climate change or the things that Pakistan is also known for, like its glaciers and large amount of biodiversity. This has a lot to do with internalized racism, internalized xenophobia, and so many other internalized hatreds in which we have divided [our]selves.”
Many people have pointed out funding disparities when it comes to humanitarian conflicts in the Global North versus those in the Global South. For example, Pakistan has only received a total of $51 million in global aid, despite conservative initial government estimates placing the damage done at approximately $10 billion.
Freshman Shoshana Daley, a member of Tufts Climate Action, agreed the climate change movement is not doing enough to address the needs of all people around the world. “People in the Global South, like in Pakistan, are the people that are being most affected by climate change, but in the West, people are so removed from these areas that they don’t even pay attention,” Daley said. “It’s not just those secluded areas. It’s also neighborhoods within our own cities and towns that are just like forgotten because of ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status.”
Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s global emissions, yet it is ranked 8th for most vulnerable to climate change according to the Global Risk Index. Political science professor Fahd Humayun believes countries that contribute the most to global pollution should take more responsibility when it comes to climate disasters like these. “There needs to be clear and unambiguous ownership from the big polluters in the Global North of not just the havoc that’s playing out in these countries, but also in spearheading concrete action plans to help mitigate and preempt disasters that will definitely occur in the future,” Humayun said. He believes wealthier countries must make an ongoing commitment to lessen climate inequalities. “The focus should be not just aid to help countries like Pakistan build back better, but on climate reparations and debt swaps that speak to the inequity of climate change—who contributes to it, and who is most affected by it.”
The term “climate reparations” refers to calls for money and resources to be paid by countries in the Global North to the Global South to account for the unequal roles in contributing to global gas emissions, as well how climate response disparities have been shaped by histories of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, increasing the wealth of some countries at the expense of others.
Burhan also described Pakistani people’s efforts to organize. “Pakistan has a big tech industry, so a lot of people are now starting these startups to help people being affected by flooding,” Burhan said. “One of my friends, for example, started an organization that gets live data about people being affected, and then lists places for people to donate to.”
In addition to technology, many Pakistani citizens have mobilized to advocate and bring attention to the flooding. On the day of the Global Climate Strike on September 23, several Pakistani activists, including members of Climate Action Pakistan, gathered in Islamabad to raise awareness and fundraise for victims.
Both Daley and Siddiqui believe there are more actions the Tufts community can take to be in solidarity with those impacted. “Within [the TCA] I’ve noticed it is very focused on divestment and has not made explicit efforts to diversify voices,” Daley said. “I think we can be making more efforts to connect with grassroots organizations instead of just focusing on divestment because if we are just doing that, we’ve failed to see the whole picture.”
For Pakistani students like Siddiqui, recognition from the university about global issues holds weight. “One thing the administration could do is send a message of acknowledgment when these things happen, especially to show they support our international students,” Siddiqui said. “I also think they could link current students who are interested in finding actionable solutions to alumni that are doing work around them.”
Siddiqui believes individual students can have more of an impact than they might think. “You can look to donate to nonprofits that are actually working on the ground to help those who are survivors of the floods,” Siddiqui said. “Even just simple amplification like reposting an infographic does a lot to raise awareness on issues and to educate people that might not have information on it.”
Many organizations both locally in Pakistan and internationally have created fundraisers to provide direct resources to flooding victims. As people continue to face dire consequences of this ongoing disaster, organizations are desperately seeking donations from those outside of the region. Whether it be direct donations or simple word of mouth, all have a part to play when it comes to being in solidarity with Pakistan.
Organizations to donate to: