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Response to Pakistan floods shows barbarism of system
Radio, television and newspaper reports of the recent devastating floods in Pakistan are at last beginning to refer to the sheer scale of the problems faced by the victims. Figures for the number of people affected vary widely. According to the Irish Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power, reported in today’s (Tuesday) Irish Times, “the United Nations estimated that 40 million people had been left homeless; that eight million of those were in urgent need of immediate food and shelter; and that the combination of rising water and humidity had made a cholera epidemic a real danger”. RTE’s website says “Aid agencies are saying that the world does not fully understand the scale of the flooding disaster ….. One fifth of the country has been hit by severe flooding, with more than 20m people affected…..The UN believes up to 3.5m children are now at risk of contracting water-borne diseases….”.
Whatever the numbers, it is clear that the devastation caused is unprecedented. Apart from the immediate short-term needs in terms of shelter, food and clean water, the Pakistani poor and working class are facing food shortages, higher food prices and increased poverty and deprivation for considerable time to come. Already the price of vegetables has increased by about 100%, sugar has gone up by over 20%, and the price of other staple foodstuffs has rocketed. Transport prices too have soared as operators exploit the desperation of those trying to flee the devastated areas.