Floods in Pakistan Kill 1,100 and Threaten 100,000 More

Lessons of one of the worst disasters in Pakistan's history

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Ongoing floods in Pakistan have killed an estimated 1,100 people or more after days of monsoon rains devastated much of the country. More rains are predicted for the next several days, which is expected to dramatically increase the death toll, already the worst from flooding in almost a century. Even once the rains stop, many fear that the flood waters will spread disease and that the vast destruction, especially of homes and infrastructure, could cause widespread starvation.

  • Whole Communities Erased  Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder writes, "The scale of the devastation is unimaginable in the low lands. Entire villages have been wiped out without a trace. Everything they had now lies buried under heaps of mud including their ancestral graveyards. The stench of death and the hot and humid conditions pose a serious threat of epidemics and diseases."
  • 100,000 'Mostly Children' at Risk from Disease  CNN's Reza Sayah writes, "officials were bracing themselves for an outbreak of disease among the millions affected by the country's worst deluge in 80 years. ... government officials are concerned a lack of drinking water is spreading conditions such as cholera and gastroenteritis in affected areas such as the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province." CNN quotes regional health minister Syed Zahir Ali Shah, "We estimate that about 100,000 people, mostly children, have been hit by cholera and gastro diseases."
  • Worsens Popular Anger at Government  Reuters's Michael Georgy writes of the "struggling" government's response that has stirred "anger" among Pakistanis, "The floods that have ravaged the northwest are testing a government that is heavily dependant on foreign aid and that has a poor record in crisis management -- whether fighting Taliban insurgents or easing chronic power cuts. ... Rescuers are struggling to distribute relief to tens of thousands of people trapped in the submerged areas, where destroyed roads and bridges make access difficult."
  • How Floods Connect to Terrorism  Huma Yusuf of Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn writes, "there is a link, however tenuous, between accidents and natural disasters and extremist violence and terrorism — and that link is governance. Tragedies such as those Pakistanis have borne in the past few days — the plane crash and the ravaging floods — provide governments with the opportunity to demonstrate their capacity for governance. The failure to do so breeds conditions that allow extremism to thrive."
  • The 'Bad Governance' Lesson  The Center for New American Security's Amil Khan reflect on the floods, "In 10 years of reporting around the Muslim world, I have seen countless times extremist or fundamentalist groups step in and provide social services where a government seen as incompetent and corrupt has failed. And everytime they have done this, they have increased their level of grassroots support. ... In the Muslim political consciousness, Islamic governance equates to social justice and social services provision." Khan's implication is that foreign aid money could much more effectively combat extremism by improving governance and the state's response to events like the floods.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.