• Official says global organisation working with govt-led sectors, assures of full support
• UN faces global fund shortage, says needs have ‘soared amid unprecedented floods in Pakistan’

ISLAMABAD: Two weeks on after the announcement of the UN flash appeal to help Pakistan cope with massive losses incurred due to unprecedented floods, the world body has yet to deploy its ‘cluster approach’ to improve the efficacy of the local and global humanitarian response to this disaster of epic proportions.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Julien Harneis told Dawn that the UN system will be working in “government-led sectors”, and added that they will fully support the government in its efforts.

Similarly, a Unicef official said a technical working group on child protection has been formed within the organisation, which is functional in two flood-affected districts in Punjab.

Separately, within the UN system, an inter-sectoral coordination group has been formed to cover the areas of education, food security, agriculture and livelihoods, health, logistics, nutrition, protection, shelter, child protection, and disaster risk reduction, according to UN documents available with Dawn.

But what is conspicuous by its absence is the ‘cluster approach’, which was first applied in response to the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

According to the United Nat­ions Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), “nine clusters were established within 24 hours of the earthquake” for better coordination. Clusters were expected to be established in the areas of protection, water, sanitation, hygiene, health, education, agriculture, emergency shelter, and nutrition.

However, this time, the UN decided to go a different route, even though the magnitude of the disaster is way worse than the earlier calamities wherein the cluster response was previously utilised, with considerable success.

Pakistan is facing a double whammy; not only is the damage casued by the current catastrophe more extensive than earlier disasters, but the number of humanitarian organisations taking part in relief operations is also lower. According to the Alliance for Empowering Part­ner­ship, 158 organisations were active in Pakistan in 2010, but this time around only 70 humanitarian organisations were helping Pakistan in its relief efforts.

UN faces funds shortage

Meanwhile, the UN is faced with a record $32 billion shortfall in humanitarian aid funding and has to rely on its emergency fund to support its critical programmes across the world, including Pakistan.

Donors have given more than ever in 2022 for crises across the world but the needs have also soared amid unprecedented floods in Pakistan and famine warnings in Somalia, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Noting the late arrival of funds for crises in the Horn of Africa and Pakistan, Jens Laerke, spokesperson for OCHA, said some of the newly-released funding will also be used for “anticipatory action” in Niger to address the impact of drought.

“A common concern is that resources often get mobilised only when the disasters reach peak point, the suffering is at its worst, and the response becomes more expensive,” he added.

‘Worse than 2010 floods’

Indicators, which keep changing with the worsening situation, showed the 2010 floods affected 22 million people whereas 33 million population has so far been affected by the recent floods, and this figure may rise till.

In 2022, it has been estimated that 116 districts in Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are so far affected by the severe floods; in comparison, 78 districts were affected in 2010.

It is estimated that 1.7 million houses have been damaged as a result of current flooding. However, in 2010, at least 1.6 million houses were damaged.

Read: How current calamity compares to 2010 floods

The farming community which was able to restore its agricultural land after the 2010 floods was shattered when crops on two million acres were washed away in the floods. It was estimated that 1.97 million acres of the area was damaged during the 2010 floods.

As far as infrastructure is concerned, the 2022 floods damaged 269 bridges, cutting off the road and rail links between provinces. In 2010, only 40 bridges were damaged. For the first time, rail links of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Karachi and Balochistan have remained suspended for weeks and restoration is a long way to go. Damages to road infrastructure were being counted but so far, 6,700kms of road have been damaged. In 2010, 5,646kms of road infrastructure was damaged.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2022

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