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Billions meant for flood-hit people misused

February 17, 2012

According to the report, Rs8 million meant for flood-affected people for 2011-12 was allocated to MPAs to do development work in their constituencies. -File Photo

KARACHI: The federal and Sindh governments have diverted billions of rupees meant for flood relief funds to members of the Sindh Assembly and the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) where these funds, it is feared, will be used for political purposes.

This was disclosed in a 'Civil society flood situation report' released here on Thursday by the 'People's Accountability Commission on Floods', a network of volunteers and representatives of the flood-affected communities of Sindh.

The report titled 'Critical situation of humanitarian funding for flood-affected communities' is the 13th research-based situation report issued by the PACF.

According to the report, Rs8 million meant for the rehabilitation of flood-affected people under the annual development programme 2011-12 was allocated to MPAs to do development work in their constituencies. This money was allocated for the rehabilitation of 200 villages and reconstruction of 40,000 damaged houses with facilities such as health and education.

Similarly, Rs12 billion provided in the Sindh Social Relief Fund for responding to natural disasters and emergencies had not been utilised in 2010 and 2011, the report says.

Currently this amount has been transferred to a federal government programme to pay Rs300,000 to each of the 35,000 beneficiaries under BISP. It is unusual that a province gives its disaster relief funds to the federal government to use it for other purposes.

According to the report, the worst-hit eight districts - Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Badin, Umerkot, Tharparkar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar and Shaheed Benazirabad - show that 68 per cent flood-affected people were denied assistance and discriminated against in relief and recovery services. Flood-affected people complained of inadequate services due to corruption, nepotism and favouritism. They were looking towards non-governmental organisations and were found unaware of the eligibility criteria for receiving wheat seed packages and Pakistan Cards, the report says.

The flood emergency relief services suffered a 53pc gap in humanitarian funding against the initial rapid response for 2011 floods launched in September 2011 whereas flood-affected people remained at risk and further funding is needed to help the flood-affected restore their livelihoods.

Highlighting the current situation of stagnant floodwater and displaced people, the report says that although nearly 90pc of floodwater has receded from the affected areas, more than 55,953 people (10,000 families) still live in temporary settlements. Land remains under water in many areas, hindering the return of the displaced families.

The report says displaced people in flood-affected Sindh urgently need relief goods to tide over the winter season. About 42pc of the residents in temporary settlements have reported lack of clothing and adequate support. Critical needs in the education sector include the renovation of about 2,800 damaged schools and provision of transitional school structures in 1,450 schools destroyed by the floods.

According to the report, humanitarian funding by the government suffered a 95pc gap during the super floods of 2010 in the emergency relief phase and early recovery period from August 2010 to August 2011. Economic losses during the super floods are estimated by the Sindh government at Rs454 billion. The agriculture and housing sectors are the major affected sectors with losses of Rs136 billion and Rs134 billion, respectively. With regard to the expenses incurred in response to the super floods of 2010, Rs20 billion was spent on flood-related activity. Whereas humanitarian partners other than the government responded with 70pc funding against the required amount of $1,963,473,246 from August 2010 to August 2011.

The situation report further says that resource mobilisation by the provincial and federal governments for a humanitarian response to the two mega floods of 2010 and 2011 failed to meet the emergency and recovery needs of the flood-hit people. The report expresses grave concern over the ineffective coordination of the government with humanitarian organisations.

Quoting the research-based findings, the report says 80pc flood-affected area schools could not be rehabilitated due to lack of funding.

The civil society report terms the government figure of spending Rs2.281 billion on emergency relief services to rain/flood-affected people in the form of dry rations, drinking water, tents, plastic sheets, transportation, dewatering pumps and miscellaneous heads as very insufficient keeping in view the losses of more than $20 billion.

According to the report, the government did not take steps to minimise the vulnerability of the flood affected people, whereas humanitarian information sharing by the government finance authorities was not sufficient enough to ensure transparency in executing relief funds.

It has been found that no funds are kept by the relief department of the government of Sindh to respond to any emergency, and the provincial disaster management authority is also without a disaster preparedness amount.

The report recommends that the government enact a 'law on compensation of civilian victims of natural disaster' and put the expenditures of relief and recovery services executed by the district administrations with breakups on the PDM website. The report emphasises people's participation in the process and decentralisation of the relief and recovery services without political interests in planning and response to the flood situation at the district level.

The report suggests that the government keep money for disaster preparedness and emergency so that any untoward disaster can be responded to on time in view of the forecast of the meteorological department.

It is also suggested that the government try to reduce the trust deficit so that resource mobilisation can be made with effective coordination of the international community. The government has got an opportunity to rebuild the basic infrastructure keeping in view the disaster risk reduction component while building shelters, schools, basic health facilities and physical infrastructure. Non-development expenditures be curtailed and an increased budget allocated for the development of the flood-affected people, it further suggests.