EDITORIAL: A global disaster fund a must
THIS YEAR has already seen some of the worst weather-related extremes in many parts of the world, the latest being Pakistan and China. The question is always whether it has anything to do with global warming, but that is not our concern here.While it cannot be scientifically proved (or disproved, for that matter) that global warming caused any particular disaster, there may be some reasonable speculation that global warming probably had a hand in it in terms of frequency and more severity.For weeks, central Russia has been in the grips of its worst ever heat wave, which has caused thousands of fatalities. As a result of drought and heat, more than 500 wildfires have raged out of control, smothering Moscow in smoke and threatening several nuclear facilities caused by unprecedented temperatures of 39ºC. As a consequence, Russia’s government has banned wheat exports, sending world grain prices soaring. Meanwhile, Pakistan is struggling with unprecedented flooding that has killed more than a thousand people and affected millions more. In China, flash floods have so far killed more than 1 000 people and destroyed more than a million homes.Television pictures tell terrible stories of the week: swirling floodwaters gobbling up people, cattle, homes, bridges, communications systems and threatening up to 20 million people in Pakistan. The rest of the world watches as if mesmerised, giving only token sums of aid, while lives and livelihoods are being swallowed whole as the destructive power of the monsoon rains and floods ravages Pakistan and China. The world has seen this before and will again as natural disasters will continue to strike suddenly and without warning. It is time now for the world to stop watching and to start doing something concrete to mitigate the suffering. We agree with those who say the leaders of the world should put the issue of disaster and emergency relief on the main agenda for their meetings in the near future, including the G-20 November summit in Seoul, alongside the question of how to revive the depressed global economy. So far there has been no rush to lend a hand. The United Nations (UN) has called for $460 million in urgent aid to Pakistan, to last for about three months. After two weeks of flooding, less than $45 million had been committed with another $91 million “pledged”. More than a third of Pakistan is reportedly under water. So many homes and infrastructure have been destroyed that it will take years to put the inundated areas and their people on their feet again. The time has come when major powers should commit to a small percentage of their combined defence expenditure towards a swift global disaster fund under the aegis of the UN. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the new fund would have more than $45 billion to get started.