NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks with Dr. Farah Naureen, Mercy Corps country director for Pakistan, about relief efforts in the region after catastrophic flooding.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
When we haven’t been talking about extreme drought this summer, we’ve been talking about extreme flooding. The latter is what is happening now in many parts of Pakistan. Huge monsoon rains have caused flooding that has killed more than 1,100 people in the country since June. About helped a million people displaced and living in refugee camps now. Many more are with friends or family. And more heavy rains are expected in September. Farah Naureen is the Mercy Corps Director for Pakistan. She joins us now from Islamabad, Pakistan. Welcome.
FARAH NAUREEN: Thank you very much, Ailsa.
CHANG: Can you tell us, Farah, what is it like where you are now? Can you paint a picture of what you are seeing right now?
NAUREEN: Yes, yes, I would very much like to do that. What happened this summer was a very early start of the monsoon. So it started somewhere in June, where it would normally start in July. And then we saw virtually unstoppable rain across much of the country, especially in the south. So provinces like Balochistan see very little rain. And this time, the rain has been happening for the last two months. And more and more areas are under water due to flash floods. And what we’re seeing now is a large population displaced by the floods and many of them residing in kind of makeshift tents on the side of the roads or in schools or in other places where they find safety.
CHANG: Right. I know that right now they are coordinating a response for all the people who have been displaced by this flood. About how many households do you estimate you will be working with in the coming weeks and months?
NAUREEN: One thing I’d like to point out is that the scale and scope of this disaster is really huge. It is spread over a very, very large geographic area. It is affecting a very large population. Mercy Corps has been in some of these flood-affected areas before with our ongoing programming, especially our health programs. So we are responding in a particular part of Baluchistan by providing the immediate relief that is needed to the affected population, such as food and other items, especially health and hygiene related items that the population needs.
CHANG: And how difficult is it to get food and water to the most affected areas right now?
NAUREEN: So access is definitely an issue for two reasons. Roads have been damaged and under water. And then the flood water itself. And we are trying to reach a large part of this population. We have an existing presence in many of these areas, and we can collaborate with the local health department, the government health department to provide health services to communities, especially those that are in tents or in camps.
CHANG: Well, of course what you’re seeing, this more intense flooding now, is an expected consequence of climate change. And I know that you and your organization point out that Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the world’s carbon emissions. So let me ask you, if it were up to you, what would you ask of the highest carbon emitting countries? What would you ask them to do to help Pakistan deal with a crisis like this?
NAUREEN: I think what’s happening in Pakistan is a clear indication of where the world is headed. And I would like to remind the richest nations to really pay attention to what is happening in the world due to climate change and make responsible decisions. The world comes to the aid of Pakistan. We hope that more money will be mobilized, but that is to provide relief and hopefully eventually recovery for this population. But that won’t address the underlying problem…
NAUREEN: …Problems. So I would like to remind everyone to pay attention to what is actually causing it.
CHANG: That’s Farah Baureen from the humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, speaking to us from Islamabad, Pakistan. Many thanks.
NAUREN: Thank you.
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