ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has been facing shortage of trained humanitarian workers with global experience as years ago it had disallowed humanitarian international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) to operate in the country.
The country needs to align disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies as unprecedented monsoon conditions will continue to occur ostensibly. Disallowing INGOs over security concerns could be valid but their absence has created a grave and continued human security issue.
Millions of people hit by the worst floods in Pakistan’s history of six decades need humanitarian aid, tents, toilets, hygiene kits, sanitary pads, and cash for quick response, rescue and recovery.
This was the crux of a discussion over a twitter space organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) wherein experts with a humanitarian background highlighted a number of policy options for adequate response, recovery and rehabilitation.
Speaking at the occasion, SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qayyum Suleri said when losses are more than the 2010 floods, a bigger response and recovery plan backed by adequate resources should be made leaving aside political differences and considerations. He said that the damages will result into livelihood losses and food insecurity.
“Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a great cash disbursement programme as social safety net. Those who are not registered, they could be taken on board and cash transfer should start as soon as possible so that people start returning to normalcy and markets are up and running,” he said.
Head of Pakistan Humanitarian Forum Syed Shahid Kazmi said: “We need to prioritise providing cooked food, nutritious dry food items, drinking water, medical camps, fodder and other veterinary services for livestock, de-watering, mosquito nets and shelters with temporary toilets.”
He said under such circumstances, there was a need to provide women and children safe spaces to protect them against violence. He hoped that once the United Nations flash appeal will be launched, much of the humanitarian funding will come to Pakistan which may be helpful in protecting people from hunger and diseases.
A leading expert on Disaster Management, Syed Waqar Shirazi gave a situation overview on the impacts of floods calling for a real time assessment of the losses and damages and impacts on the people and infrastructure. He said power and telephone signals were cut in the flood-hit areas which hampered rescue work. The floods damaged standing crops such as rice, sugarcane and cotton, and seeds for future crops were also washed away. He warned against ensuing epidemics as a result of standing water.
Mr Shirazi said this was the result of disallowing humanitarian INGOs to operate in the country.
Humanitarian policy specialist Dr Shafqat Munir Ahmad said: “We need to update national, provincial, and district level development plans making them risk-sensitive. We need to align disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies with the commitments under Sendai Framework on DRR. Unprecedented monsoon will continue to occur ostensibly linked to climate change, so we have to put in place proper preparedness and DRR plans at community level.”
He called for allowing global humanitarian actors to restart their operations on a long-term basis by providing them an enabling environment.
Writer and Environmentalist Zofeen T. Ebrahim said that youth have a passion to support the flood victims but they were not trained in humanitarian work which causes trouble in reaching out to the people. She called for providing cooked food and tents to give immediate relief to the flood-affected population. She said that banning humanitarian INGOs was not a good decision as they used to train our human resources in handling emergencies.
Senior developmental journalist, Moazzam Bhatti was of the opinion that media can play a great role provided it is given access to assessment data. Appeals through media always draw funds and humanitarian support from general masses and philanthropists.
Climate scientist Dr Fahad Saeed gave a suggestion that Pakistan should build its case at the forthcoming COP27 in Egypt based on scientifically tested data that the losses incurred in floods are related to climate change so that the country can access the climate fund set aside for this purpose.
He said heat waves and floods impact communities largely and there is a need to protect the people through strong early warning, preparedness, and adaptation measures.
A speaker Dr Imran Khalid said that the areas submerged are prone to such incidents in the future as well so there is a need to build safety bonds to protect people and livestock, and build reservoirs to harvest rainwater. He called for urgent action to make communities resilient against such shocks as their resilience has been marred due to multiple crises.
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2022