Hollywood star Angelina Jolie on Wednesday joined Pakistan in pushing the international community to step up aid for victims of the country’s historic flooding, which has affected roughly 33 million people.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. … I am overwhelmed,” said Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a day after visiting flood-ravaged areas in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province.
The United Nations says the catastrophic deluges triggered by erratic rainfall have killed nearly 1,600 people, including 560 children, since mid-June when seasonal monsoon rains began. An estimated 3.4 million children have been uprooted from their homes and are grappling to survive.
Jolie warned that “too many children” are malnourished and people are in need of urgent aid.
“If enough aid doesn’t come, they won’t be here in the next few weeks,” she warned during her visit to the National Flood Response Coordination Center in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. “I am absolutely with you in pushing the international community to do more.”
Pakistani and U.N. officials say monsoon rainfall, made worse by global climate change, led to flash floods in the mountainous parts of the country and widespread flooding in the plains, submerging one-third of Pakistan under water. Officials have warned that floodwaters could take months to recede.
The catastrophic flooding has prompted calls for the international community to come together and work toward climate change mitigation.
“I think this is a real wake-up call to the world about where we are at, and that climate change is not only real and it’s not only coming, it’s very much here,” Jolie emphasized.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden, while discussing climate change in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, highlighted Pakistan’s floods.
“We all know we’re already living in a climate crisis. No one seems to doubt it after this past year. As we meet, much of Pakistan is still underwater; it needs help,” Biden said.
Pakistan contributes less than 1% of global carbon emissions, but it is listed as one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis. Islamabad has urged rich countries to pay climate reparations.
In the meantime, cargo planes from dozens of countries have brought relief supplies and medicines to Pakistan over the past month.
The United Nations has warned that outbreaks of diarrhea, typhoid and malaria are increasing rapidly as millions of flood victims sleep in temporary shelters or in the open near stagnating water.
More than 134,000 cases of diarrhea and 44,000 cases of malaria were reported in the hardest-hit area of Sindh this past week, a U.N. statement said Wednesday.
“A second disaster is looming in sight – health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene” are of critical concern, it warned.
U.N. officials say large parts of Pakistan’s flood-affected areas are still submerged and thousands of families in the 82 affected districts are still cut off and have yet to receive any form of aid.
Pakistan estimates the flooding has cost it more than $30 billion in damage, as homes, roads and entire communities have been washed away. The flooding has destroyed more than 3.5 million acres of arable land, raising fears it will exacerbate food insecurity issues across the country of about 220 million people.
France will host an international conference later this year on “climate-resilient reconstruction” of Pakistan’s flood-ravaged areas, the foreign ministry in Islamabad said Wednesday after a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the 77th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.