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U.N. chief launches $160M fundraiser to help flood-ravaged Pakistan

A boy sits on a street stall in a flooded area following heavy rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, on Monday. Floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have killed more than 1,100 people across Pakistan since mid-June. Photo by Bilawal Arbab/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | A boy sits on a street stall in a flooded area following heavy rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, on Monday. Floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have killed more than 1,100 people across Pakistan since mid-June. Photo by Bilawal Arbab/EPA-EFE

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday announced the launch of a global campaign to raise $160 million in emergency funds for Pakistan amid catastrophic floods that have killed more than 1,100 people in the country since June.

Monsoon rains have caused more than $10 billion in damages while displacing as many as 33 million people, many whose homes have been damaged or destroyed.

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Eyewitness accounts from the northern part of the country describe an apocalyptic-level calamity, with people wading through waist-deep water, evacuations on cattle and an extensive number of crops destroyed.

While the rain has eased, large portions of the country remain underwater, with hundreds of roads and bridges damaged and stranded villagers still being rescued from inundated homes.

Helicopter crews have airlifted more than 300 to safety from many hard-to-reach areas, and have been delivering food and critical supplies throughout the region.

Hundreds of tent communities have emerged across the country with more than 33,000 patients being treated so far at 50 medical encampments, leading at least one official to warn of the risk for disease to spread in a third-world environment.

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"Our needs assessment showed that we are already seeing a major increase in cases of diarrhea, skin infections, malaria and other illnesses," said Shabnam Baloch, the director of the International Rescue Committee in the country, according to CNN. "We are urgently requesting donors to step up their support and help us save lives."

Meanwhile, the Indus and the Swat rivers were still on the brink and threatening to create a wider disaster if any more flooding emerged in the next day.

A host of UN member nations have already pledged aid to Pakistan.

Seven military aircraft from Turkey and three from the United Arab Emirates were en route with aid, and another two planes from China were said to be on the way with 3,000 tents. Japan was sending tarps and other supplies while Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Azerbaijan all agreed to send money.

Also Monday, the International Monetary Fund also freed up $1.17 billion in funds from a 2019 bailout agreement to keep Pakistan from defaulting on its national debt as the country faces a fragile economy amid surging inflation.

In a video message launching the fundraiser in a ceremony in Islamabad, Guterres called for increased action on climate change around the world.

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"The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids -- the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding," Guterres said.

"Let's stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change. As we continue to see more and more extreme weather events around the world, it is outrageous that climate action is being put on the back burner as global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising, putting all of us -- everywhere -- in growing danger."

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