Lahore/Washington: Pakistan’s devastating monsoon floods have sent food prices skyrocketing, putting many staples out of reach for the poor as the cash-strapped country battles shortages. 1 has been submerged, killing over 1,100 people and affecting over 33 million people. The planning minister said the restoration could cost him more than $10 billion. The rains, which began in June and have been attributed to climate change for their unusual intensity, have also damaged vast swaths of fertile farmland and crops. Roads and bridges were washed away, cutting off parts of the mountains in the north and the breadbasket in the south.

“I can’t buy anything because the prices are too high because of this flood,” said Zahida Bibi, who came to the market in central Lahore to buy vegetables for dinner. She told AFP that she had to let go of some items on her shopping list because inflation was getting out of hand. She said, “What can we do? We don’t make enough money to buy things at such high prices.”

Onions and tomatoes, which are common in most Pakistani diets, are the most affected. Prices for both he rose 40 percent, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said on Friday. But on Monday, Finance Minister Mikhta Ismail said the price of onions had jumped more than fivefold and the government was looking to quickly implement policies to stabilize food prices, including imports from its biggest rival India. “We should consider getting vegetables across the border,” he told broadcaster GeoNews. “Because of the prices and shortages we are experiencing, we It has to be done… Inflation has broken people’s backs.”

out of reach

With millions of acres of farmland still under water and inaccessible to certain roads, prices are expected to rise further. “About 80 percent of Pakistan’s tomato crop has been damaged by the floods, and onion supplies have also been hit hard,” Shazad Cheema, secretary of the Lahore Market Committee, told AFP.

“These are basic items, and ultimately it is the average buyer who is most affected.” Muhammad Owais, a vegetable seller at a market in Lahore, struggles to find buyers at current high prices. was doing. “Prices were so high[due to the flooding]that many customers left without buying anything,” he told AFP.

Pakistan was suffering from record high inflation even before the floods due to rising global oil prices and a balance of payments crisis. When the International Monetary Fund approved the resumption of its massive lending program to Pakistan, the government found room for maneuver on Monday, quickly releasing $1.1 billion.

United Nations Appeal

The United Nations and the government of Pakistan launched an emergency appeal of $160 million on Tuesday to help those hardest hit by the floods that devastated the country. said it would provide food, clean water, sanitation, emergency education, protection and health assistance to the 5.2 million worst affected and most vulnerable people, calling the disaster a “huge crisis”.

“Pakistan is riddled with suffering. The people of Pakistan are facing a steroidal monsoon of epoch-making levels of rain and the relentless effects of flooding,” he said in a video statement. This aid, which covers the first six months of the year, helps prevent outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and provides nutritional assistance to young children and their mothers.

It also provides assistance to refugees and facilitates programs to reunite families separated by disasters. “The people of Pakistan urgently need international solidarity and assistance,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, at a press conference in Geneva.

He said about 500,000 people displaced from their homes by the floods have taken refuge in relief camps, and many more are temporarily staying in host families’ homes. About 150 bridges have been washed away and 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of roads have been damaged by floods and landslides, hindering access, he said. “With heavy rains projected to continue and many dams and rivers already reaching flood levels, the floods could get worse before they get better,” Laerke said.

Meanwhile, the IMF Executive Board on Monday approved an agreement to revive a large lending program for Pakistan as it grapples with devastating monsoon floods that are exacerbating its economic crisis. A Washington-based crisis creditor immediately released his $1.1 billion to the country, adding another $500 million to the total size of the package, bringing it to about $6.5 billion.

Additionally, the International Monetary Fund has agreed to the government’s request to extend the package until June 2023. His original $6 billion bailout package was signed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019 but repeatedly stalled after his government did not agree to agreed reforms on subsidies. It did not significantly improve tax collection.

“Pakistan’s economy has been hit hard by unfavorable external conditions due to spillovers from the war in Ukraine and domestic challenges,” the aid said in a statement. Steady implementation of remedial policies and reforms remains essential to cope and lay the foundation for inclusive and sustainable growth,” she said.

The government reached an agreement with IMF staff last month to resume suspended aid packages. The new accord follows months of highly unpopular moves by the government of Shehbaz Sharif, who came to power in April to effectively abolish fuel subsidies and introduce new measures to expand the tax base. It follows tightening. – AFP

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