Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has warned that climate change will not spare other countries the kind of disaster that has left up to a third of his country under water and that millions of his children are at risk of waterborne diseases.
He told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday to come together and “act now” before it is too late.
“One thing is very clear: what happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan,” Sharif told world leaders.
“A biblical flood poured down for 40 days and 40 nights, breaking centuries of weather records and challenging everything we knew about disasters and how to deal with them,” Sharif said.
He went on to provide first-hand details of the magnitude and magnitude of the catastrophe his country is facing, where floods caused by record monsoon rains and melting glaciers have killed more than 1,600 people since June.
Sharif said parts of the country are “still under water, submerged in an ocean of human suffering”.
“At this zero-point of climate change, 33 million people, including women and children, are now at high risk of health risks,” he said.
Authorities have warned it could take up to six months for floodwaters to clear in the worst-affected areas of the country as fears mount over the threat of waterborne diseases, including cholera and dengue.
The Flood left 3.4 million children in need of “immediate, life-saving assistance,” according to UNICEF, leaving them vulnerable to waterborne diseases, including dengue fever and malaria.
“The undeniable and inconvenient truth is that this disaster was not caused by anything we did,” he said.
Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s warming gases, European Union data shows, but it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.
It pays a heavy price, not only with lives, but with destroyed schools, houses and bridges.
Sharif said life in Pakistan has changed forever and feared the country will be left “high and dry to face the crisis we didn’t create”.
He explained that it was “quite reasonable” to expect some approach to justice for this loss and damage, warning that “the time to talk about action is clearly over”.
The country’s National Disaster Management Authority says that of the 1,606 deaths recorded so far, 579 have been children.
Sharif told the UN that in addition to the lives lost, a million homes have been destroyed and another million damaged. He also said more than a million farm animals have been killed and four million hectares of crops washed away.
He said he is “completely committed” to Pakistan’s reconstruction, but warned other countries to focus on the future, including fighting climate change.
“It is high time we took a break from the preoccupations of the 20th century to return to the challenges of the 21st century,” Sharif said.
“The whole definition of national security has changed today. And unless the leaders of the world come together to act and act now according to an agreed common agenda, there will be no earth to wage wars on. Nature will fight back. And humanity is no match for that.”