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October 13, 2018

Resilience to disaster


October 13, 2018

Disasters lead to loss of lives, property and assets for the affected. Women, children, the poor, the elderly and those with disabilities are particularly vulnerable.

The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is being celebrated across the globe today, helps shine a light on the importance of improving disaster preparedness at every level by strengthening communities and households to be resilient to disasters.

This day has a special relevance to Pakistan. A National Resilience Day event was held on October 8 to mark the anniversary of the deadly 2005 Kashmir earthquake while celebrating the work of all those who have helped make Pakistan better prepared for disasters. It is a sad fact that Pakistan is a disaster-prone country, with frequent floods and other disasters, including earthquakes, drought and heatwaves.

These not only bring destruction but also jeopardise economic and social gains. Pakistan is also highly vulnerable to climate change and is already witnessing its impact in the form of heat stress and changes to disease patterns that will add further pressure on vulnerable communities, and have the potential to increase the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. These, combined with climatic changes, not only require preparedness, but also demand coordination from different stakeholders and institutions.

Recognising the scale of the problem, the UK has stepped in to support the government of Pakistan to improve the capability to prepare and respond to emergency situations. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) launched the Building Disaster Resilience in Pakistan (BDRP) Programme in September 2016 to manage the impact of future disasters through early warning, disaster preparedness, diversifying livelihoods, and building the capacities of communities and the government.

The BDRP is a four-year programme; Phase-I operated in the most vulnerable villages of four pilot districts in Sindh and Punjab. Activities have just finished and independent evaluations have shown that the communities are better positioned to cope with emergency situations and respond locally. People have improved their readiness and ability to respond to any crisis in the future. This has been achieved by forming and training disaster management committees at the village and even UC levels.

Disaster management plans and emergency response teams have also been developed. Emergency operational centres have been established at the district level in coordination with district and provincial disaster management committees. Women and people with disabilities were actively involved and activities were implemented to cater to their specific needs.

To further strengthen these communities, disaster-resilient model household shelters, hand-pumps and latrine facilities have been constructed. To ensure their sustenance in an emergency situation, around 700 plots have been established to grow flood and drought-resistant crops. And community-based nurseries have been established and training has been conducted to promote smart livestock management. All this has been done in close coordination with the NDMA to ensure smooth coordination between different tiers of government.

Phase-II was launched last week. This expands the programme to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including new areas that face different disaster risks. Lessons from phase-I have been incorporated, with new pilot activities planned to help innovate and drive solutions that work for local communities.

It is heartening to see a resilient Pakistan where we can limit the impact of natural disasters, if not prevent them altogether. On this International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, I call upon all stakeholders to promote best practice, further build on successes in disaster preparedness, and ensure an inclusive model to achieve a resilient, prosperous and stable Pakistan.

The writer is the head of the Department for International Development (DFID) in Pakistan.

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