ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is grappling with food shortages after deadly floods left the country’s impoverished agricultural belt underwater, the prime minister told the Turkish president by phone, as authorities stepped up efforts on Monday to deliver food, tents and other items.
Shahbaz Sharif spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan overnight to thank Turkey for sending food, tents and medicine by 12 military planes, four trains and Turkish Red Crescent trucks.
A government statement says Sharif has been informed Erdogan about the government’s relief activities and asked for Turkish help to overcome the “food shortage”. Sharif also requested Turkey’s help for reconstruction works in flood-affected areas.
More than 660,000 people, including women and children, are living in relief camps and makeshift homes after floods damaged their homes across the country and forced them to move to safer places. Pakistan, the country’s military, UN agencies and local charities are providing food to flood victims.
Pakistan relies heavily on its agriculture and occasionally exports its surplus wheat to Afghanistan and other countries. It is now in talks to import badly needed wheat and vegetables, including for people not directly affected by the floods.
Meanwhile, the price of vegetables and other foods began to rise.
Until last week, floodwaters covered about a third of Pakistan, including the country’s agricultural belt in eastern Punjab and southern Sundh provinces, which are the main food basket. Initially, Pakistan said the floods caused $10 billion in damage, but authorities say the damage is far greater than initial estimates.
This forced Pakistan and the United Nations to urge the international community to send more aid.
In response, United Nations agencies and various countries, including the United States, sent more than 60 planes loaded with aid. Since last week, Washington has sent three military planes to deliver food.
Three other US military planes carrying aid were due to land on Monday in the province of Sindh, the most affected by the floods, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
A few days ago, Washington set up a humanitarian air bridge to flood-ravaged Pakistan to deliver aid via 20 flights, which will arrive in Pakistan by September 16. US authorities also plan to distribute cash to those in need.
Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during a visit to Pakistan, visited flood-affected areas, where flood-induced downpours continue to wreak havoc.
António Guterres called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” over the dangerous environmental crisis. During a meeting with him, he assured Sharif that he would do his best to highlight the ordeal of the Pakistanis facing the floods.
Deluges from the rising Indus and Lake Manchar in Sindh province still threatened Dadu, a southern district where rescuers using boats were evacuating villagers to safer locations on Monday. Light rain is expected in flood-affected areas this week, according to the Meteorological Department.

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