Despite being responsible for less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan is ranked as the 5th most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index. A study from NASA scientists, published in the journal Nature Water, found that increasingly frequent, widespread and intense droughts and floods were linked more strongly to higher global temperatures than to naturally changing weather patterns.
Pakistan witnessed its most devastating monsoon rains in 2022, resulting in severe flooding that submerged one-third of the country and affected 33 million people - resulting in destruction or damage to more than a million homes.
Sindh province was badly affected by last year’s floods. It is estimated that around 12 million population got affected and 7 million population was displaced in 24 districts out of 29 districts. There were physical damages and losses; 2 million houses were damaged and 0.4 million livestock died. Sindh faced an unprecedented food security crisis due to the devastating effects of the flood.
Even after a year, people affected by the flood are not fully rehabilitated, despite the efforts of the federal and provincial governments and other humanitarian agencies. The flood impacted women and children more due to their vulnerable position. The situation is still gloomy in Sindh, many flood victims continue to live in tents and makeshift shelters and several districts of Sindh province are still submerged in floodwater. The infrastructure of public facilities is still dilapidated, and the reconstruction of houses is left to local people or NGOs.
Since the floods, relief aid and humanitarian assistance has come from various local and international partners including the European Union and other multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations agencies, and various INGOs, NGOs, private organisations, and local donors. Two such organisations are Indus Consortium (IC), based in Islamabad, and Oxfam, a global organisation that offers lifesaving support in times of crisis and advocate for gender equality and climate action.
“There is an ongoing need for long-term planning when it comes to climate change-related disasters. What is largely missing is a concrete plan to mitigate further damages in expected floods often in the future due to climatic changes,” says Saddam Hussein, assistant policy chief at the Pakistan Institute of Developing Economics PIDE Islamabad.
“The immediate need for reconstruction related to floods remains a national priority. Pakistan needs to improve its institutional capacities for preparedness and development planning related to disaster risk reduction as well as enhancing the efficiency of response and recovery. It also needs to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure,” suggests Gul-i-Hina van der Zwan, a research fellow at International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS).
The Government of Pakistan and the United Nations have jointly launched, the ‘2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP)’. It simultaneously started in Islamabad and Geneva. It highlights the humanitarian needs of flood victims, the efforts and steps taken by the Government of Pakistan to handle these challenges in collaboration with the UN and other partners, and sets out a well-coordinated and inclusive plan of action to respond to the needs of the affected people.
Spearheading Sindh’s recovery, the World Bank partnered with the Government of Sindh under the multi-sectoral Sindh Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project (SFERP), to repair damaged infrastructure, create livelihood opportunities, and build long-term resilience against disasters.
Immediate impacts included swift restoration of livelihoods, benefitting over one million low-income residents in the districts of Dadu, Jamshoro, and Kamber Shahdadkot. Through its ‘build back better’ approach, SFERP is integrating resilient features into reconstruction efforts, including increased capacity of regulators on Manchar Lake, and considerations for climate and disaster risks in infrastructure design.
Oxfam in Pakistan (OiP) is implementing the flood 2022 response with its partner-led approach - implementing the flood response in 4 districts in Sindh and 2 in Balochistan. The first phase started in September and ended in December 2022. The focus of the first phase was on immediate life-saving needs including WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and Non Food Items (NFIs) supplies. The second phase started in January 2023 and will be completed in December 2023. Phase 2 focuses on early recovery activities under WASH and Emergency Food Security and Vulnerable Livelihoods (EFSVL). While selecting the target communities, the priority is given to women, children, and other vulnerable segments of the society.
Similarly, Indus Consortium (IC) under the Project ‘Gender Inclusive Disaster Risk Management’, supported by Oxfam Pakistan, aims to provide action-oriented guidance to local, provincial and national government officials and key decision makers who deal with post-disaster challenges. The activities include agricultural inputs, multi-purpose cash grants, livelihoods grants, and income-generating activities for women, rehabilitation of water schemes, installation of filters, latrine construction and safe spaces for women and children.
District assemblies play a pivotal role in promoting community engagement and inclusive decision-making. Under the ‘Gender Inclusive Disaster Risk Management’ project, initiated by IC and Oxfam, women assemblies were conducted in August 2023 in district Ghotki, Sukkur, Sanghar, Dadu, and Badin to create awareness about gender-inclusive disaster risk management.
A total of 50 women participated in the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) in the above mentioned districts. The case studies were prepared in the broad context of protection and safeguarding issues covering the themes of loss and damage, food security, GBV and sexual harassment, social protection, health, livelihood, education, shelter and WASH. Some major issues identified in case studies and FGDs were:
* Amid lack of transportation, women with disabilities and pregnant women experienced difficulties in rescue operations. In relief camps, there was lack of availability of trained staff and services for pregnant women and the new- born who needed urgent help.
* There was lack of WASH facilities and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) related materials, medicines and family planning supplies and food, etc.
* The loss of livestock and agriculture labour made women more economically weak. Women sold livestock at lower prices to meet their basic needs.
* Majority of the women lost their houses either fully or partially. They are still living in the open or sharing one room as they have no income to re-build their houses. There is no space for privacy. Women are insecure due to threats of robbery and kidnapping etc.
* Majority of the women were concerned about continuity of education of their children. Schools had been damaged during the floods. There was lack of alternate learning arrangements for children. Children got engaged in labour work and therefore education became less priority for the parents and children.
* There was absence of effective involvement of women in the planning of DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction) and management at all levels, from community to district and to provincial level - creating difficulties for women to access recovery services.
* Women lacked skills, training, education and information about their rights. Their lack of access to the micro-finance and market also keeps them away from generating income resources.
Based on the FGDs and case studies of the women affected by the flood of 2022 in Sindh, a Charter of Demands (with the efforts of Oxfam and ID) to the Sindh government has been prepared. The charter highlights the areas, which need specific attention of the state authorities to address concerns of women, girls and other vulnerable groups and make a gender-inclusive disaster management strategy. Some of the salient features include:
* To devise an effective rescue system considering the needs of women, girls, and other vulnerable groups.
* To implement the provision of medical and reproductive health facilities at camps and in flood-affected areas and availability of basic equipment.
* To ensure separate WASH and MHM facilities for women and girls and to establish Women Friendly Spaces (WFSs) to ensure fear and harassment free environment.
* To organise gender sensitisation and awareness-raising sessions for men and provide information about women’s rights.
* To engage women institutions i.e., Women Development Department (WDD), Sindh Commission on Status of Women (SCSW), and gender and protection cells for random monitoring in relief camps and remedying any GB issues.
* To provide soft loans to women to initiate their livelihood options i.e. agriculture inputs, livestock, small shops, sewing machines, etc.
* Assist women in rebuilding houses, and take special measures for women to get entitlements to these houses.
* To prioritise the education of children, particularly girl’s education during disasters. To provide stipends to girls for secondary and higher education in flood-affected areas to cover the cost of transport, books and uniforms.
* To develop local women leadership through capacity building and enhancing engagement of local women representatives in disaster preparedness and management. Facilitate 100 per cent CNIC registration of women and girls in flood-prone areas.
* Allocating gender-responsive budgets for climate change and disaster management.
Erum Noor Muzaffar is the editor of You! magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org