The Blog

Pakistan Government Receives Billions of UK Aid but Fails To Stem 1,000 Deaths From Heatwave

If this happened in the UK there would be a national outrage but in Pakistan there is something of a twisted inevitability to this kind of disaster which is becoming almost an annual occurrence in recent times.

There has been a shocking death-toll in Karachi and southern Pakistan this week as a heat-wave has taken the lives of over 1,000 people.

If this happened in the UK there would be a national outrage but in Pakistan there is something of a twisted inevitability to this kind of disaster which is becoming almost an annual occurrence in recent times.

Admittedly this is far worse than previous years but it can hardly be a great surprise to anyone that the summer in Pakistan gets hot and the government should prepare for the worst.

However, just like the train companies in the UK who are never prepared for the first cold snap of winter, the regional Pakistani government have done little or nothing to get ready for the pre-monsoon heatwave. The difference being that in the UK there are just inconvenienced commuters struggling to get to work on time - in Pakistan over a thousand people have died.

Inadequate Water and Power Supply For The Poorest Communities

The reason for this horrendous death toll is down to the inability of the local Sindh government and the water and power supply companies to provide enough electricity and clean water to the poorest communities.

As the temperatures in Sindh province in southern Pakistan hit 47C the dead toll rose to 500 by Tuesday and is now well over 1,000, and in the vast majority of cases it's the poor that have died. If this had happened in the UK the Met Office would have issued red alert warnings but in Pakistan nothing was done to warn the populace of the impending danger. The morgues are now overflowing and the hospitals are overrun with over 8,000 patients of all ages suffering from heat-stroke, and yet despite the widespread scenes of chaos, the central government in Pakistan refused to help when Sindh political leaders asked for support, stating that it is not their problem or fault and that entire responsibility rests on the provisional government.

Both the centre right Pakistan Muslim League (central government) and the socialist Pakistan Peoples Party (Singh govt) have been accused of high levels of corruption and have shared power in turns. However when the time comes to share responsibility for their bad or non governance, both throw the blame on the other.

The most pressing problem is the frequent power outages in the city of Karachi from an electricity grid which is unable to keep up with the demand of a city with a population of 16 million. Power cuts are a common occurrence in Pakistan but when they happen during a heatwave there are deadly consequences. Little has been done to improve the electricity provision by the Sindh government which has been accused or rampant corruption in recent years, even the military leaders in the army have denounced the Sindh regional government as the most corrupt in the country.

Water-shortages are also rife and contaminated water in the province has contributed to a rise in diseases including diarrhoea, cholera, gastroenteritis, typhoid and hepatitis. There isn't even enough water to bury the dead and the graveyards have bodies piling up.

These problems are only set to get worse in years to come. Heatwaves have become much more common in the past 10 years - hundreds died in 2013, and 2010 when temperatures reached 53.5C (128.3F) in Mohenjo-daro in Sindh, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia. Also the monsoon flooding that follows the heatwave is also getting more extreme, with record floods in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Pakistan has received £1.17bn in UK support in the past four years making it one of the largest recipients of bilateral aid, but last year a House of Commons committee questioned the allocation of large sums of money to a state "that has failed to adequately mobilise the substantial resources of the country to help its poor."

This current outrage is just more evidence of this fact and if adequate steps are not taken by the Pakistani government to use British money to assist those who need it most then perhaps the aid should be cut.

Sayed Bukhari is the CEO of HPM Developments in London

Popular in the Community