International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – A Wake-Up Call for Pakistan

October 13 is recognized as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), by the United Nations. Its purpose is to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and capacity building to mitigate risks in the face of disasters.

This year, the theme for the day is ‘governance’, keeping its critical importance for all the decision-making and the right actions for the state of better preparedness. Governance is perhaps the single most important factor which determines the impact of a disaster on the people.

It also enables us to find answers to critical questions such as how well is a nation prepared to handle a catastrophe, what are the long-term actions being planned, and what are the short-term measures being implemented?

All these factors collectively define capacity which in return decides the extent to which a nation may get affected during and after a disaster situation.

Overtime natural disasters have considerably increased, whether it floods or wildfires, countries are constantly combating climatic emergencies. The burgeoning impact of climate change is evident and indicates that countries now need to actively plan ahead, devise local and national strategies to deal with this menace.

Pakistan is ranked as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change by the Long-Term Climate Risk Index. As a result of global warming and melting glaciers, Pakistan has been hit by 21 massive floods from 1950 to 2011.

These natural disasters affect poor people immensely. Recurrent loss and damage to households push these vulnerable communities further down the poverty line.

Days such as these give us a chance to reconsider our approach towards disaster governance and to accept the fact that a lot has to be done. We have to fully understand the causes of poor disaster governance and come up with policies and plans to save the susceptible.

Public-private collaborations could be very helpful in this regard. The government could work with organizations that have already identified vulnerable communities and are working on empowering them.

It is in the recognition of the aforementioned urgency that Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) is implementing Building Resilience to Disasters & Climate Change (BRDCC) project in eight districts across the country, co-­financed by National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF).

The project is designed to strengthen the readiness of the communities through establishing an institutional framework to mobilize communities, understand their special vulnerabilities to natural hazards, and design structural and non-structural measures.

The project especially aims to enhance the institutional and physical capacity of communities to reduce the socioeconomic and ­fiscal impacts of natural hazards and climate change in 16 targeted union councils of 8 districts of the project.

The objective of the project is to promote a culture of safety and resilience by integrating disaster risk reduction (DRR) through mitigation, preparedness, and prevention.  The project has led to increased institutional and physical capacity along with reducing the socioeconomic impacts of natural hazards and climate change.

The Project is expected to benefit vulnerable populations of more than 200,000 people through the construction of flood protection walls, with a cumulative length of 36 KM in a short span of time. It is also likely to protect cultivable land of around 4,000 hectares from flash floods and rainwater erosion In the target areas.

Similarly, PPAF has worked on another project in collaboration with KfW (German Development Bank) to build the capacity of communities in six districts of KP, namely Nowshera, Haripur, Swabi, Buner, D.I. Khan, and Charsadda.

The program helped in preventing the potential losses caused by the natural hazards through the formation of 164 Village Disaster Mitigation Committees and the construction of 26 disaster mitigation structures.

Disaster-prone people are isolated and scattered over large areas. They are unorganized and marginalized.

If we really intend to help these communities then institutions and governments have to join forces and work together on an urgent basis because we do not have the time to wait. The action needs to be taken now if we want to save our future generations!