Pakistani PM says his flooded country faces food shortages

Pakistan is grappling with food shortages after deadly floods left the country’s agriculture belt underwater, the prime minister told the Turkish president by phone, as authorities scaled up efforts on Monday to deliver food, tents and other items.

hahbaz Sharif spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan overnight to thank Turkey for dispatching food, tents and medicine by 12 military aircraft, four trains and Turkish Red Crescent trucks.

A government statement said Mr Sharif briefed Mr Erdogan about the government’s relief activities and sought assistance from Turkey in overcoming the “food shortage”.

Mr Sharif also sought help from Turkey on reconstruction work in the flood-hit areas.

More than 660,000 people, including women and children, are living at relief camps and in 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 these flood victims.

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Victims of heavy flooding from monsoon rains take refuge at a temporary tent housing camp organised by the UN Refugee Agency, in Sukkur, Pakistan (Fareed Khan/AP)

Pakistan heavily relies on its agriculture and occasionally exports its surplus wheat to Afghanistan and other countries. Now it is in talks to import badly needed wheat and vegetables, including to people not directly affected by floods.

Meanwhile, the price of vegetables and other food has started increasing.

Until last week, floodwater was covering around a third of Pakistan, including the country’s agriculture belt in eastern Punjab and southern Sundh provinces which are the main food basket.

Initially, Pakistan said the floods caused 10 billion dollars (£8.6 billion) in damages, but authorities say the damages are far greater than the initial estimates.

That has forced Pakistan and the United Nations to urge the international community to send more help.

In response, UN agencies and various countries, including the United States, have sent more than 60 planeloads of aid. Since last week, Washington has sent three military planes to deliver food.

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Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a school set up at a flood relief camp in Jaffarabad, Pakistan (Pakistan Prime Minister Office via AP)

Three more US military planes carrying aid were to land in Pakistan’s worst flood-hit southern Sindh province later on Monday, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Washington days ago set up a humanitarian air bridge to flood-ravaged Pakistan to deliver aid through 20 flights, which will arrive in Pakistan before September 16.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a visit to Pakistan travelled to flood-hit areas, where deluges from floods are still causing damage.

Mr Guterres has called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the dangerous environmental crisis. He assured Mr Sharif in a meeting with him that he will do his best to highlight the ordeal of Pakistanis facing floods.

Deluges from the rising Indus river and the Lake Manchar in the Sindh province were still posing threat to Dadu, a district in the south where rescuers using boats were evacuating villagers to safer places on Monday.

Light rain is expected in flood-hit areas this week, according to the Meteorological Department.

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