By Guest Contributor on Monday, October 25th, 2010
What’s being called the worst flooding in a century inundated Pakistan starting with heavy monsoons this past July. Many people still fail to grasp the enormity and devastation of this slow moving disaster. That was the message at a recent forum hosted by the United Nations Development Programme. Here are some of the shocking statistics of the Pakistan flooding: 21 million people – roughly the population of the state of New York – have been affected. One-fifth of Pakistan’s land – the size of the state of Florida – has been damaged. 1,800 people have died, 70% of roads and bridges within the 88 affected districts have been destroyed, twice as many schools have been destroyed as in Haiti, and currently 1 million people are without any form of shelter or aid.
The UN has been working intently to administer relief to Pakistan in a way that sets the stage for long term reconstruction. Part of the UN strategy is called the Cluster Response. Clusters are groups of organizations – such as the World Food Program and Save the Children – that are assigned a category of relief (e.g. food, health, education, businesses, etc). As part of the larger UN emergency response plan, the UNDP recently launched its $120 million Recovery Plan. According to a UNDP press release, this year-long program “aims to restore livelihoods through job creation, repairing basic community infrastructure, and strengthening local government offices to get public services running again.”
Michael Klosson, Vice President of Save the Children, spoke about the challenges facing non-governmental organizations that are providing relief in Pakistan. NGOs are struggling to scale up their ranks of volunteers and their strategies to match the scale of this disaster, while also facing a lack of funding. The operating environment of political and adminstrative tension as well as the timing of the catastrophe also pose problems. Winter is fast approaching, which adds new dangers, and UN Assistant Secretary General Ajay Chhibber pointed out that reconstruction delays could cause many children to miss an entire school year, and result in most girls to quit school completely.
Secretary Chhibber stressed the importance of a three-stage support agenda. Stage one is humanitarian relief, which remains underway as the floodwaters recede in Pakistan. Stage two is early recovery – a crucial stage that will bridge the gap between relief and long-term reconstruction. Stage three is long-term reconstruction. Chhibber noted further assessments on flood damage and needs and impacts on the Millennium Development Goals will be launched at the Pakistan Development Forum in order to prepare for long-term reconstruction.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin talked about the impact of the flooding on the political environment. She said that one of the lessons to be learned from the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 is the importance for aid providers to create positive impressions among the affected people. After the Kashmir earthquake, positive opinions of Americans and UN aid lasted in that region for years because it was clear that the U.S. and the UN were being purely humanitarian, not political. In the case of this disaster, Ambassador Chamberlin exhorts those providing aid to be personal, hands-on, and transparent about the source of the relief in order to build that rapport and positive impression of the U.S. and the UN.
The speakers stressed that every contribution helps and that individuals should get involved. Spreading awareness of the devastating floods, donating to various organizations, or volunteering with NGOs are all important ways to help the suffering people of Pakistan. Michael Klosson said returned Peace Corps volunteers can help by staying service-minded, and to check out InterAction, an alliance of development and humanitarian organizations, for ways to get connected.
This post was authored by NPCA Advocacy Intern Sarah Stogsdill.