Pakistan’s Floods - A Foreign Aid Warning
One of the quiet feel-good stories of the last sixty years has been the success of overseas development assistance or foreign aid. Contrary to skeptics’ belief, the billions of dollars that have flown out of advanced country coffers into those of developing ones have delivered material improvements in the quality of life and health of the world’s most vulnerable people. But those dollars were aimed at old problems. In the era of climate change, developing countries and the foreign aid that supports them face a new challenge.
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Based on Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data, total overseas development flows have grown from $120 billion USD in 2008 to just over $160 billion USD in 2019. The majority of those flows have gone to Africa, closely followed by Asia.
These flows have had a real impact on people’s everyday lives. While infant mortality in Africa remains unacceptably high, it has improved dramatically over the last six decades. Below are the infant mortality rates for the 6 most populous countries in Africa. Egypt can claim the distinction of having lower infant mortality than the world on average.
Much of these gains have been eked out by pushing back against familiar challenges: malaria, polio, malnutrition, etc. But developing countries are increasingly on the front lines of climate change and its worst excesses.
In 2022, Pakistan has served as the poster child for climate change’s victimization of poor, developing countries. In March the country experienced its hottest March temperatures on record since 1901. In the city of Nawabshah, the mercury rose to 49.5 °C (121.1 °F).
As if a severe heatwave causing death and damaging crops were not enough, the unseasonably warm temperatures melted glaciers leading to flooding across the country. The death toll has risen above 1,000 including nearly 400 children. Some 14 percent of the population has been affected - 33 million people. That’s more than the combined populations of Australia and New Zealand. Over a million homes have been damaged or destroyed.
The current international development architecture is not doctrinally prepared for an aid mission that requires both the lifting of living standards and building resilience to climate change. The International Monetary Fund, for example, maintains a sharp focus on debt-to-GDP ratios in its guidance to developing countries. But these are the countries that most need to borrow to build the infrastructure needed to survive the coming impacts of a warming climate.
Developed countries’ focus on fiscal prudence and good governance is laudable in the context of foreign aid. But funds for climate change should be carved out and treated differently from standard development aid. The leaders of the developed world will say it is already hard enough to sell bread abroad when few of their constituents believe there is enough bread at home. But the reality is that climate change does not respect borders. The displacement of 33 million in Pakistan is the start of our climate catastrophes, not the end. Where are these people going to go? Immigration is contentious now - imagine what it will become in the context of mass climate migration.
Record-Breaking Heat Wave Prompts Flash Flood, Collapsing Bridge in Pakistan, Eco Watch
“‘Pakistan has the highest number of glaciers outside the polar region and many are losing mass due to high global temperatures,’ Pakistan Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman tweeted in response to the incident. ‘We need global leaders to reduce emissions, walk the talk.’”
PHOTOS: A third of Pakistan is under water in catastrophic floods, NPR
“One-third of Pakistan is inundated, as floods sweep through the country this summer. The catastrophic floods, resulting from monsoon rains that began in June, are unprecedented in scale and scope. So far, they have affected some 33 million people — about 14% of Pakistan's population — causing death, damage, displacement and loss whose effects will be felt for months and years to come.”
The Barbados Rebellion, New York Times
“Few parts of the planet are as imperiled by the changing climate as the Caribbean’s crescent-shaped string of islands. Every summer, the warm waters off the northwest coast of Africa spin off cyclonic systems that hurtle across the Atlantic, reaching the easternmost stretch of these islands — where Barbados stands sentinel. Quick successions like that of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, the two storms that narrowly missed the island, were supposed to be rare. Now, though, experts believe that global warming could drive a fivefold increase in strong hurricanes, suggesting that hits from Category 4 and 5 storms will become an annual near-certainty.”