ISLAMABAD, May 15: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman Thursday called for strengthening of partnership between government and civil society in ensuring the safe construction and buildings for schools as well as hospitals in the country.

“There is a scope to improve as long as we can all forge partnerships and work together. It is also our mandate to provide shelter to the people and we now add the new terminology of safer shelters or safer buildings,” she said, while speaking at a two- day international conference on ‘School Safety’.

The conference was organised by the Agha Khan Planning and Building Service Pakistan in collaboration with Focus Humanitarian Assistance and Agha Khan Development Network (AKDN) against the backdrop of October 2005 earthquake that claimed lives of 17,000 school children due to destruction of school buildings in the affected areas.

She said that for building a hospital or school, precise information and historical data on intensity of earthquakes that had occurred within a radius of 300km had to be collected.

In developed countries, this is a normal practice, she said, adding that in this part of the globe safety of school buildings and hospitals was perhaps the least priority.

“We need to take concrete steps to ensure this does not happen again and that our children are safe in the schools and our rural women are safe in their homes,” the minister said.

Emphasising the importance of a massive awareness drive, she said it was required to enlighten the masses across the country.

“It is high time that big builders are brought under a confederation which keeps updating their knowledge about the advantages of earthquake resistant buildings,” she maintained. About the conference, she said it was an important occasion to see so many people gathered here to share best practices and advocate the concept of ‘School Safety’ for the future generations of Pakistan and the region.

The minister said soon after the earthquake, teams after teams of experts visited the affected areas and put forward their own notions of the safety and plans for future. The government accepted some recommendations and did implement some of them. However, the masses remained deprived of the provisions made by the government because there is hardly any awareness among them, she added.

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