Beginning in the middle of June 2022, Pakistan experienced abnormally heavy rainfall, which continued through the rest of the summer. By late August, Pakistan declared a national emergency. The flooding has displaced more than 33 million people, leaving hundreds of villages inundated with water and has resulted in the death of over 1,500 people. The Pakistani government has launched rescue efforts and begun emergency aid distribution, but aid officials are concerned that rural communities may face another wave of death from contaminated water and food scarcity.
Pakistani officials warn that the floodwater may take three to six months to recede. In addition to the newly unusable agricultural land, Pakistan is still reeling from an economic crisis and is now facing double-digit inflation. In a country dependent on agriculture, food shortages and price spikes threaten food access for the tens of thousands of smaller landowners and farmers that make up the backbone of Pakistan’s agriculture sector.
Senior Kainat Ansari* is from Karachi, a major city in the Sindh province of Pakistan. She, along with members of the South Asian Students Association (SASA), have worked to raise awareness about the flooding in Pakistan at Whitman.
“I think this organizing and awareness campaign was a way for us to satisfy the fact that, even though we are far away from home, we can still do something to make the situation better,” Ansari said. “At the same time, we’re also students and we also feel very helpless. We cannot do much, but yet we are trying to do something to the best of our capabilities.”
Scientists are calling this a climate disaster of epic proportions. Although Pakistan’s contribution to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions is less than 1 percent, it is among the top ten countries most affected by climate change.
Ansari believes the countries contributing the most to carbon emissions should be the ones to help offset the cost of climate change. She feels that, as a student, she should not be responsible for coming up with solutions to fix a problem she had no part in creating.
“I hope that the countries really take initiative to talk about these climate issues because we should not be the ones accountable for others’ carbon gas emissions,” Ansari said. “It’s very unfair to us and unfair to my people.”
Sophomore Bidita Nawar is the co-president of SASA and has faced similar challenges back home in Bangladesh. Nawar acknowledges the invaluable assistance provided by emergency aid organizations, but she is frustrated that her country and others have to depend on foreign aid.
“What can you say? I was born in a nation where we have to rely on international aid and non-governmental organizations. We’re helpless. You will take whatever you can get,” Nawar said. “I guess the first-world countries finally feel bad and their good deed is to help us out. It’s beneficial for us. We do work hard, but it’s sad that we have to rely on people too.”
Ansari expressed similar disillusionment with the efficacy of government in actually helping their citizens in times of crisis.
“Pakistan is a developing country and struggles economically, so it’s hard to say if relief aid money actually goes to the people or not,” Ansari said. “A lot of people do not really benefit from [the government distributing] international aid because their aid is very small and we don’t really know how it is used or where it goes.”
SASA has been fundraising through GoFundMe and plans to donate the proceeds to the JDC Foundation. The JDC Foundation is a non-governmental organization based in Pakistan and was chosen for its lack of political affiliation and ability to provide basic essentials to those most in need. The donations will help pay for food, water, shelter and medicine.
Nawar feels many students do not engage outside the Whitman bubble while at school, and emphasized the need for involvement in issues outside of Whitman and the United States.
“There has to be more awareness of the world outside of America,” Nawar said. “Most people here don’t know there’s a world outside of America.”
Echoing Nawar’s sentiments, Ansari wants to see more accountability from anyone who possesses the capacity to help.
“Living in a very developed country, you cannot neglect the fact that there are people in other parts of the world paying for your lifestyle. We need to be conscious about the lifestyle that we live,” Ansari said. “I think being conscious and cognizant of that fact will do [a lot].”
*Kainat Ansari is an Opinion writer at The Wire.