One month – that’s how long floods have been devastating parts of Pakistan.
The misery began in the north-west of the country with the onset of the annual monsoon rains. The seemingly endless torrential downpour led to the worst flooding in the nation’s history.
After receding in the north-west, the floods moved southwards and enveloped large parts of Punjab, Baluchistan and finally Sindh province, where hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee from their homes only a day ago.
At this stage, an area the size of England has been affected.
Seventeen million people are directly or indirectly impacted by the waters and around 5 million have lost their homes. The numbers are sobering, but the toll of this disaster on young people is heartbreaking.
According to the United Nations more than 8 million children have been made vulnerable because of the floods. Of them, 3.5 million are under threat of disease or malnutrition. And for 70,000, their health is so bad they are at serious risk of death.
Adding to the misery is the economic fall out of the disaster.
Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. Roughly 70,000 sq km of farm land has been inundated. Of that, at least 20 per cent of the cotton crop has been lost.
Cotton is a hugely important commodity in Pakistan as it fuels the country’s textile industry, which accounts for more than 70 per cent of exports annually and employs millions of people.
With so much of the harvest destroyed, it’s projected the industry will lose more than $2 billion.
Even before the floods struck, Pakistan’s economy was in dire straits. Growth was forecast at 4.5 per cent this year but, it is now predicted at anything between zero and 3 per cent.
This is where Pakistan finds itself four weeks after the worst deluge to hit the region since 1929.
But the human suffering experienced by Pakistani’s affected by the disaster is incalculable. Suffering made worse by a shameful lack of aid.
After Ban Ki Moon, the the UN secretary general, surveyed the damaged caused by the floods and declared it the “worst disaster he’s ever seen”, the United Nations appealed for $460 million in emergency funds to help deal with the immediate humanitarian crisis.
Since then, it’s only been able to raise around two thirds of the money needed.
The despair of people living in relief camps is almost palpable. Most spend their days sitting in the stifling heat waiting for meager food handouts, while others try to come to terms with what they’ve lost.
But the trauma is fast turning into anger.
Much of it directed at the president, Asif Ali Zardari.
Flood victims say he and the civilian government he leads ignored the alarm bells when the catastrophic flooding first began and their attempts to handle the situation since then have been inept at best.
It’s too early to say when the suffering caused by the floods will end in Pakistan. But that hasn’t stopped some from asking whether the country will recover at all.