Ready or Not

Pakistan’s resilience to disasters one year on from the floods

Published: 26 July 2011
Author: 
Arif Azad, consultant; Helen McElhinney, Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Advisor

The floods that hit Pakistan in 2010 were the worst in the country’s history. The humanitarian response achieved remarkable successes in minimizing the immediate loss of life and providing relief to millions of people. However, it could have been better: more than 800,000 families remain without permanent shelter and more than a million people remain in need of food assistance. These unmet needs must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

As Pakistan faces another monsoon season and the likelihood of more disasters, the country is not prepared. Many factors which have hampered the relief and reconstruction effort are still present, such as an inadequate disaster management system and a lack of emergency relief coordination and leadership. These institutional challenges must be resolved as soon as possible. The government and donors need to invest heavily in measures to reduce disaster risks such as better early warning systems, flood control, and more resilient housing. They should also tackle the underlying social inequalities which leave people vulnerable to disasters through a pro-poor national development plan. Spending on risk reduction and preparedness not only saves lives and livelihoods but hugely reduces the economic impact of disasters.

Key recommendations

  • Ensure that the unmet early recovery needs of flood-affected people are addressed by investing adequate resources, particularly for housing and agriculture support.
  • Save lives and money by investing the initial $27m needed in disaster risk reduction measures, including reorganizing and strengthening disaster management authorities, and mapping future flood hazards. This would avoid incurring the repeated costs of far more expensive emergency responses. This should be followed by sustained long-term investment to reduce risks including at least 1 per cent of all national development funding allocated to DRR, which could be drawn from increased tax revenues.
  • Define the mandates, roles, and responsibilities of government bodies responsible for preparedness, disaster management, and reconstruction at the federal, provincial, and district levels. This should ensure effective co-ordination between GoP institutions and with international actors throughout the response, recovery, and reconstruction phases.
  • Update the National Floods Management Plan, simplify and improve early warning systems, designate safe breaching locations, and mitigate risks by repairing flood protection systems urgently.
  • Reduce vulnerability to crises. The Government of Pakistan should urgently co-ordinate a pro-poor reconstruction and development plan that is transparent and accountable and that includes reforms necessary to address underlying vulnerabilities of women, landless people, hard-to-reach communities, and minorities. This must be based on DRR and climate change adaptation principles.
  • Listen to the concerns of the Pakistani people by ensuring that affected communities and civil society, particularly women, are consulted on preparedness, response, and longer-term reconstruction.
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