The floods in Pakistan are now worse than Haiti's January 2010 earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake combined, the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced on Monday. The floods have killed 1,600, displaced 1 million from their homes, and affected 15 million in all. The latter number includes many who, because they have lost access to food and clean drinking water, may be at serious risk of starvation or such water-borne diseases as cholera. Here are the effects of this ongoing humanitarian disaster.

  • Deep Damage to Frail Pakistani Economy  The Sydney Morning Herald's Matt Wade writes, "The worst floods in Pakistan's history are devastating its already fragile economy, adding further instability to the troubled nation. The biggest city and commercial hub, Karachi, is in danger of being hit by the floodwaters. ... Huge damage has been caused to infrastructure including bridges, roads, government buildings and electricity. The United nations says reconstruction is likely to cost billions. ... The rescue effort is sapping the government's budget, which had been under serious strain before the floods. ... The economic problems have been blamed for stoking militancy in the country and security experts have warned that the floods could play into the hands of extremist groups if infrastructure and livelihoods are not restored quickly."
  • Continuing Rains Slow Relief Work  The Voice of America reports, "Relief workers in Pakistan say continued heavy rains have worsened the situation in the country where raging floodwaters have killed more than 1,600 people and affected 15 million. The floods have destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and washed away roads, bridges, crops and livestock. New downpours have hampered relief efforts in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and spread the floods to the agriculture heartland of Punjab and further south along the Indus River into Sindh province."
  • Food Prices Balloon Wildly  The Sydney Morning Herald's Matt Wade reports, "the consequences are being felt across the country as food prices rise. There are reports the cost of basics like onions, potatoes and tomatoes has quadrupled following the inundation of huge tracts of prime farming land."
  • Serious Risks for U.S. War in Afghanistan  Reuters' Sue Pleming warns that "fallout from the weak response of the civilian government" could slow the efforts to calm Pakistani militancy. Pleming also cites "the Pakistani military's attention ... being diverted from its fight against militants in the border areas with Afghanistan where U.S. troops are fighting the Taliban." Additionally, "Charities with links to militants have taken advantage of the vacuum left in Pakistan and delivered aid to thousands stranded by the floods, possibly boosting their own standing among those communities."
  • Government Stability Weakened  Academic and blogger Juan Cole cautions, "The ruling Pakistan People’s Party is being widely criticized for its failure to respond to the massive needs of the people, generated by this catastrophe. And President Asaf Ali Zardari’s visit to the UK, where he met with British Prime Minister David Cameron, has provoked a firestorm of criticism from Pakistanis who think he should have stayed home and helped manage the crisis. Anything that could pull down the government, as an inept response to the flood could, has security implications in the fight against the Taliban. (The Pakistani Taliban have actually taken advantage of the chaos to launch some attacks)."