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The Lingering Impact of Pakistan’s Floods

With a third of the country underwater, experts warn of spreading waterborne diseases and food shortages.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Flooding in Baluchistan, Pakistan
Flooding in Baluchistan, Pakistan
A flooded residential area after heavy monsoon rains in Baluchistan province, Pakistan. on Aug. 29. FIDA HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the lingering impact of Pakistan’s disastrous floods, Europe’s emergency energy measures, and Sweden’s new leadership.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


The Lingering Impact of Pakistan’s Floods

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the lingering impact of Pakistan’s disastrous floods, Europe’s emergency energy measures, and Sweden’s new leadership.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


The Lingering Impact of Pakistan’s Floods

Aid agencies and officials warn that Pakistan’s cataclysmic floods could spread waterborne diseases and increase food shortages, further straining a population already reeling from climate disaster and record inflation.

Months of brutal flooding have inundated Pakistan, submerging one-third of its territory and transforming once-populated lands into shrinking islands. The deluge has now displaced more than 33 million people, authorities estimate, while roughly 1,500 people have been killed. 

“It is simply heartbreaking. No picture can convey the scope of this catastrophe,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday after visiting the country, while noting the floods’ human toll and scale of destruction. “The flooded area is three times the size of my entire country, Portugal.”

Even as international aid flows in, experts say Pakistan may be trapped in this nightmare for years to come. Under government estimates, it could take as long as six months for the flooding to recede—a timeline that could have worrying consequences as waterborne diseases spread. Pakistani officials have already documented outbreaks in hard-hit regions, and the World Health Organization has warned of growing public health challenges

“Tens of millions of people are now forced to use unsafe water, both to drink and for their daily needs,” Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said in a statement. “Early disease surveillance reports are already showing an increase in cases of diarrhea, malaria and typhoid,” he added.

This crisis was compounded by a failure of governance, Anmol Irfan wrote in Foreign Policy. “Although there is no doubt that what has happened is an unprecedented climate anomaly, there is also a manmade element to this disaster,” she wrote, while adding that “a mix of mismanagement and severe distrust of political leadership among civilians” is hampering relief efforts.

As the flooding kills more than 750,000 livestock and swallows up fields, it may slash an already diminished food supply and further drive up prices, deepening food insecurity in Pakistan and beyond, as Michael Kugelman wrote in FP’s South Asia Brief newsletter. 

“With crops, livestock, and agricultural land damaged or destroyed, Pakistan will struggle to feed itself and the countries that depend on its food exports,” he wrote. “This risks exacerbating the global food market crunch triggered by coronavirus pandemic supply chain shocks and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”


What We’re Following Today

Europe’s energy plans. The European Commission has proposed emergency policy measures to collect an estimated $140 billion in windfall taxes from certain energy firms, then reallocate it in an effort to cushion consumers and businesses against painfully high energy bills. It also outlined mandatory reductions in electricity use.

“This is not only a war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “This is a war on our energy, a war on our economy, a war on our values, and a war on our future.”

Sweden’s new leadership. In a drastic shake-up in Swedish politics, a right-wing bloc narrowly defeated the center-left government of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, winning by a margin of 176 to 173 seats. The right-wing grouping—which includes the Sweden Democrats, a party once seen as radical and with historical neo-Nazi links—pledged to crack down on immigration and increase prison terms. 

“Now the work begins to make Sweden great again,” Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats—which is now the country’s second-largest party—wrote in a Facebook post. 


Keep an Eye On 

Marooned Filipino workers. A wage dispute between a U.S. contractor and the Philippine government has stranded hundreds of Filipino contract workers at a U.S. military base in the Indian Ocean, the Washington Post reports

The Philippine government wants the U.S. company, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), to pay the workers U.S. minimum wages—they are currently paid an hourly rate of $5.25, workers said—and has accused KBR of halting flights between the base and the Philippines. KBR, in turn, has rejected allegations that it has stopped them from going to the Philippines. 

Deepening China-Russia ties. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to meet today in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in their first face-to-face meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The Kremlin said that the two leaders are expected to discuss Taiwan and the war in Ukraine.


Wednesday’s Most Read

Putin Has a New Opposition—and It’s Furious at Defeat in Ukraine by Alexey Kovalev

Russia Is Supplying Ukraine With Lightly Used Tanks by Jack Detsch

Queen Elizabeth II Wasn’t Innocent of Her Empire’s Sins by Howard W. French


Odds and Ends 

An American woman brought a raccoon into a bar in Maddock, North Dakota, last week and then walked around to show the animal to another customer, prompting U.S. public health officials to issue a rabies warning. “I had no idea what she was thinking,” the bartender, Cindy Smith, told the Bismarck Tribune

During the five minutes that the woman was in the bar, Smith said the raccoon did not leave her arms or bite anyone inside. Officials said they issued the warning as a precautionary measure, and it’s still unclear why the woman was carrying the animal.  

Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter misstated when Chinese President Xi Jinping last visited Hong Kong. It also misidentified where the most recent clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan occurred. 

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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