Saturday May 25, 2024

‘Communities’ preparedness wards off big disasters’

By Rasheed Khalid
April 22, 2024
A flooded residential area after heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan. — AFP/File
A flooded residential area after heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan. — AFP/File

Islamabad:Dr Ayaz Qureshi, Associate Professor, Medical Anthropology, University of Edinburgh, UK, and director of Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology, has said that anthropological, pro-environment and people-centred approaches to understanding people’s vulnera­bilities to climate change are very important for redressing the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable communities.

Dr Qureshi was giving a talk on "The impact of climate change on health in Pakistan” organised here by Department of Anthropology, Quaid-i-Azam University. Dr Qureshi who is also an alumnus of the Department, presented data on how climatechange-induced weather events such as 2022 floods in Pakistan are becoming more frequent, irregular, unpredictable and erratic. He drew attention to the weaknesses of the health system and the lack of preparedness to deal with the health impacts of the climate change-related events by focusing on the case study of recent floods in Pakistan.

When communities are prepared, extreme weather events do not become big disasters, observed Dr Qureshi. He said that disaster preparedness can be achieved through allocation of better resources in the health sector, training of healthcare workers to mitigate the health impacts of disasters, strengthening the forecasting and communication systems within local communities and building on local knowledge rather than merely privileging technical fixes before and after a natural disaster strikes. Moreover, he opined, disaster responses need to pay more attention to commonly neglected areas of health such as gender sensitive care, mental health, chronic conditions and disabilities.

Dr Qureshi concluded that crises like 2022 floods are not just one-off natural events resulting from climate change but they also unleash and complicate ongoing processes of dispossessions and deprivation, such as life-long disabilities and traumas. They push communities into poverty and aggravate inequalities within them. Therefore, they should be responded to as such rather than focusing merely on providing humanitarian aid in the short-term or securing financial concessions at international forums which may benefit the ruling elite in the name of victims of climate change, thus ending up further entrenching inequalities in health and life, he said.

Dr. Inam Ullah Leghari, Chairperson, Department of Anthropology, thanked the attendees and guest speaker for his inspirational talk and voiced his aspiration for similar academically enriching engagements in forthcoming departmental endeavours.