As the water starts to slowly recede, Pakistan is facing waves of disaster that will be felt for years
He may be one of the youngest victims of Pakistan’s devastating floods. A baby not yet born when record-breaking monsoon rains triggered flooding that swallowed up much of the country over the summer.
He arrived more than a month later. His mother fought for him, struggling through floodwaters to reach a road, to hail a car and to make her way to a medical facility, where she delivered by caesarean section.
She then entrusted the baby, just hours old, to an uncle who drove him 60 kilometres to a children’s hospital in the city of Nawabshah, where intensive care nurses massaged air into the baby’s struggling lungs with a manual pump.
“I am feeling better [here],” said the uncle, Ghulam Raza Mari, after reaching the children’s hospital. “That there are facilities with highly qualified doctors and highly qualified equipment.”
It wasn’t enough. The baby died two days later, on Sept. 29, at 8 a.m., shallow breathing cited as the cause of death.
It’s possible his fate would have been the same without the obstacles placed in his family’s path as they sought urgent help. But they certainly stacked the odds against him.
He won’t be included in the tally of those who died because of the flooding — some 1,700 at last count, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.
But his short life and death are interwoven with the tragedy still playing out in Pakistan; one that will continue for years to come as the country seeks to recover and rebuild from a disaster ultimately worsened by climate change.
The monsoon rains started in June, and over the next three months, 390.7 millimetres fell in Pakistan — nearly 190 per cent more rain than its 30-year average for that quarter. By August, nearly one-third of the country was under water.
Bridges, rail networks and roads have been wiped out. Thousands of schools and medical facilities have been damaged or washed away, and more than seven million people have been displaced from their homes.
The losses are estimated at $30 billion US, and have renewed calls in Pakistan for “climate justice,” reparations for the damage that comes with increasingly violent and unpredictable weather events.
Pakistan is one of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index, but it contributes less than one per cent to the global greenhouse gas emissions associated with a warming planet.
Those warmer temperatures are blamed for super-charging this year’s rains and speeding glacial melt from mountains in the north of the country, putting added pressure on the Indus River, which runs the entire length of Pakistan.