Words by Jadzia Allright
Although the recent news has been covering the ongoing floods in Pakistan, albeit not as much as it should have, it will not be long until it is out of the papers and fades from public consciousness. As the world we currently live in is rife with cataclysmic events, it will not be long until another natural disaster, death, or other world changing crisis hits the front pages. This will not be the case for the 33 million people affected by the monsoon rains, including 7.9 million displaced from their homes and in need of assistance. Infrastructure has been destroyed, leaving people worrying about their future without homes, farms, and schools. Once the water clears, the damage will still remain.
For one, as schools are closed it disrupts essential education for a child’s life, further compounding the damage done by the pandemic. There have been numerous outbreaks of waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, malaria, and others, as millions seek shelter near stagnating water. Those who were originally the most vulnerable, with a lack of access to clean water and poor sanitation, will experience this the worst. Children in these areas suffer malnutrition and will be disproportionately affected. As the schools remain closed, the lack of education will impact the wider community and affect the cycle of people moving to populated areas for better employment. This impounds the statement ‘Climate-related crises will not affect everyone equally’. Children and future generations will suffer more than adults, poorer communities are unable to save themselves, and, on a larger scale, those in higher income countries will be better protected in the future.
Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, currently owes $100bn to external debtors and multilateral lenders, from the aid they have received. It is still unclear as to whether they will relieve these debts in the near future or if it will send the country’s economy into a spiral, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. A similar situation was seen in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake decimated the country. Following the aid given, Haiti had a debt of $295 million with Venezuela alone and consistently struggled to repay the debts. The World Bank eventually announced that it would waive Haiti’s remaining debts to them, which were valued at about $36 million at the time. Haiti’s economy has been built on debt after France demanded reparations post-independence. This consistent lack of money has led to the country being underdeveloped and vulnerable to natural disasters which plunges them further into debt.
New Zealand is also a country vulnerable to earthquakes and natural disasters, but the news will never see devastation like the 2010 Haiti earthquake. This is due to the fact that they have emergency response systems in place, as well as prediction analysis and better prevention methods. Buildings are built to expect earthquakes and citizens are well-prepared. On the other hand, Haitians live in unstable houses, have little prediction systems, and have a general lack of prevention for the damage which may cause. All of this proves that when another natural disaster occurs, fewer people will be affected in New Zealand, and it will be easier to recover. Haiti would once again fall into disrepair and will have to rely on foreign aid to regain normalcy.
Overall, the western media has appeared to have already moved on from coverage of the Pakistan floods, and yet the disaster continues. As climate disasters continue and worsen, they will disproportionately affect developing countries. This is especially cruel as the higher income countries unfairly cause these appearing climate emergencies. It has been found that 20 of the 36 highest emitting countries are considered the least vulnerable to the possible negative impacts of climate change. Debt relief will keep these countries from developing, and they cannot do anything to stop the encroaching climatic impacts. They are stuck in a never-ending disaster which they cannot prevent.
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