Tuesday October 04, 2022

Social network considered best support during floods

September 22, 2022

Islamabad : A large majority of flood affected people appeared to be unhappy with the performance of state institutions and ruling parties. However, primordial social networks including extended families, friends and neighbours demonstrated massive sense of empathy in the wake of recent floods.

They played a heroic role but silently. This is the crux of the assessment survey of Pattan that was conducted during 11-15 September by community-based-activists at 38 disaster hit localities of 14 districts of three provinces. Pattan survey shows most of the surveyed localities not happy with any of the outside institution.

At three locations Al-Khidmat Foundation was appreciated, while in a few localities Rescue 1122 and army was also praised. However, discussions with some affected people appeared to be that despite having all kinds of resources and funds why state institutions took ‘ages’ to reach to the affected people. As many as 23 localities didn’t mentioned name of any institution because no outside institution played any role in their areas.

The fundamental lesson the country must learn from the survey findings and previous studies is - build capacities of local people through fully autonomous and powerful local governments as they are and will always be the first defenders and only, they could act promptly in the wake of disasters. Principle of proximity must guide disaster risk reduction and management. Regarding displacement, the people of 92% locations had to leave their villages/neighbourhoods. From eight areas most people were forced to leave by floods. However, from 30 locations every family member left, while people of eight areas left someone behind. Most of the community-based observers reported that displaced families have started going back to their original place of residences while no family has returned of 37% locations.

As far losses, the survey shows death of 151 people, 51 of them were women, 49 men and 51 children. The affected localities lost nearly 1,000 cows and 1,200 buffaloes, and more than 3,000 goats/sheep. In total 5,795 pukka and 7,195 kutcha houses were completely damaged, while nearly 7,000 houses were partially damaged. Besides, people also faced losses due to damage to their shops/business and stocks.

In total 1,700 shops were completely or partially destroyed. From 11 locations no one reported loss of wheat grain. It appears the people of these locations were very poor and had not stored any wheat, while from six areas wheat loss was in the range of 10 and 500 KGs and from 14 locations loss of wheat varies between 500 and 8,000 KG. Except two areas, damage to standing crops of cotton, rice, vegetables, fruit trees and fodder was reported.

Pattan’s survey also shows presence of sufficient number of structures and buildings which could be used as safe places during floods. For instance, before floods, at the 38 surveyed locations there were 158 schools, 65 clinics and nearly 250 worship places. On average there were about 12 buildings at each locality. Similarly, high grounds and embankments were also available for temporary placement. The survey shows that in most of the surveyed areas displaced families have taken refuge on or in these buildings.

Pattan recommends raising plinth levels of public places so that in future floods the affected people could use them. In short, Pakistan must develop community-based disaster management systems at local level – an important but a forgotten pillar of National Disaster Management Policy and Plan.

Pattan survey also shows that after six weeks of the flooding, many families of 15 locations were found living under open sky on roads, embankments, and without tents, while many people of 14 localities, while still living in their villages but under plastic sheets. Regarding relief assistance, in ten locations majority appeared to have received ‘nothing’. About conditions of roads leading to the surveyed locations, roads were completed damaged in nine areas, for 17 localities roads were not suitable for small vehicles. Roads leading to eight locations were suitable for all kinds of vehicles. However, in most areas motorcycles, three-wheelers, and small cars (Suzuki Mehran) appeared to be in great use. It appears in next two weeks roads leading to most of flood affected areas will be in better condition to transport relief goods. Pattan's survey also informs about the immediate needs of the people. Dry ration, drinking water, bath soaps, sanitary pads, mosquito nets, cots and blankets/quilts appeared to be the topmost needs of the people. This survey was conducted in 14 of the most affected districts of KP, Punjab and Sindh. Lower and upper Chitral, lower and upper Dir, Malakand, Swat, Dera Ismail Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Dadu, Jam Shoro, Kashmore, Qamar Shahdad Kot, and Sanghar.

The findings recommend cash transfer to needy families through digital means at this stage is imperative as it will invigorate local business, reduce indebtedness, and discourage embezzlement. It is also the most cost effective and quickest mean to help needy people. It also suggested care for three Bs (Build-Back-Better) and community participation be integral part of reconstruction and recovery. It calls for improvement in preparedness and early warning system.