UCLA students call attention to unprecedented floods in Pakistan
Sept. 11, 2022 6:35 p.m.
This post was updated Oct. 16 at 8:26 p.m.
When Nabeel Shaikh combs through social media posts from his family’s country, he sees submerged houses and people attempting to drag their cars through the water.
Shaikh, a rising fourth-year computer science student, has family in Pakistan. The country is currently one-third under water because of unprecedented flooding from extreme rain that began in mid-June, with 33 million people estimated to be affected, according to CNN. The World Health Organization has rated Pakistan’s flooding as a grade three emergency, which means the country will receive attention from the WHO’s Pakistan and regional offices as well as its Switzerland headquarters. According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, close to 1,400 people have died because of the floods, nearly 500 of them children.
Sindh, a province in southeastern Pakistan, is one of the main regions affected by the flooding, Shaikh said. Though his family is located more inland and away from intense flooding, he said turmoil has increased in less affected areas because of an increase in people migrating from flooded areas.
“They’re (my family is) seeing it unfold in front of their own eyes. It’s a very bad situation to be in,” said Shaikh, who is also internal vice president of the Pakistani Students Association at UCLA. “It’s very tough to get out of because people are losing their homes, their cars, their belongings – stuff they’ve worked for.”
Shaikh also said farmers and other agricultural workers are especially vulnerable, as the flooding has destroyed their means of living. 3.5 million acres of crops and about 800,000 livestock have been affected by flooding, said UNICEF Pakistan Representative Abdullah Fadil at a Sept. 2 press briefing.
Manal Ahmed, a rising fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student who has family in Sindh, said floods have surrounded her family’s houses. Although they are safe, contaminated water makes it difficult to travel through their neighborhoods and reach necessities, she said.
Ahmed, who is also the president of the PSA, said witnessing the flooding through social media has been saddening, adding that students are limited in their abilities to effect change from far away.
Ahmed added that she has seen many opportunities to donate online to relief efforts. Although these are valuable, she said it is important to recognize the uncontrollable nature of natural disasters.
“When you see those images and those videos, that’s when you know that it’s real – it’s not just a made-up thing. There’s proof of it,” she said. “It’s very disheartening because you’re just like, ‘What can I do to help?’”
Many people affected by the flooding are also economically disadvantaged, said Alina Gardezi, a rising fourth-year communication student, adding that the Pakistani government should be providing more relief for citizens.
The country is expected to have damages exceeding $30 billion, but Gardezi – who is also the PSA’s director of marketing – said possible incoming relief close to $200 million is not nearly the amount necessary.
The United States recently provided $20 million in humanitarian aid to Pakistan in early September. The government originally announced $100,000 of immediate aid in mid-August upon reports of inundating floods and rain since mid-June.
“It’s upsetting to see what Pakistan is going through right now,” Ahmed said. “It’s sad because to me, Pakistan, it’s where my parents are from. My family lives there. … It’s not something that I’m reacting to lightly.”
Climate change – largely driven by countries such as the U.S. – has contributed to the flooding in Pakistan, Shaikh said, adding that he feels the U.S has not provided enough support to the country.
Pakistan itself contributes very little to global warming, Ahmed added. According to a report from the government of Pakistan in 2021, the country contributes 0.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions but is one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
“There’s a lack of responsibility,” Shaikh said. “Climate change is primarily driven by these industrialized countries, but when it comes to the consequences of that, they’re not necessarily owning up to it.”
Gardezi, who lived in Pakistan from the ages of 7 to 10, said her family members are fearful of the flood’s impact, adding that many did not expect homes to be damaged.
“It’s sort of a surreal moment,” she said. “I also feel anger, and I’m sort of upset because I wish that those millions of people were receiving the proper assistance. … No one deserves to go through what those families are going through.”