Pakistan’s disaster vulnerability can be reduced through institutional and community resilience

Islamabad, June 2: Population in Pakistan is vulnerable to disaster due to a range of hazards including avalanches, cyclones/storms, droughts, earthquakes, epidemics, heat-waves, flashfloods, floods, glacial lake outbursts (GLOF), landslides, river erosion and tsunami. The negative affect in terms of instability in the lives and livelihoods calls for increasing need to prepare for, cope with and recover from disasters, these views were expressed by speakers of at a seminar on “Strengthening Institutional and Community Resiliency (SICR) in the Hazardous Areas of Pakistan” organized by FOCUS Pakistan at a local hotel in Islamabad.

Ambassador of Norway Mr. Tore Nedrebø was the chief guest, First Secretary to Embassy of Norway Mr. Tom Jorgen, CEO FOCUS Ms. Nusrat Nasab and Director FOCUS Dr. Nasim spoke on the occasion.

CEO FOCUS Pakistan, Ms. Nusrat Sasab in her welcome speech said, “FOCUS in its efforts to lend impetus to effective ways of managing disaster, has implemented “Strengthening Institutional and Community Resiliency (SICR) in the Hazardous Areas of Pakistan”  with financial support of Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provided through Royal Norwegian Embassy and Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan. She said, 50% of the population in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral are living at the disaster prone areas. FOCUS Pakistan is a community based organization and is pioneer in DRR specialty in this country. She said, it is encouraging that the ratio women participation in these initiatives is 36%.” The major objective of FOCUS Pakistan is to concentrate on building capacity of communities, relevant departments of Government, give technical support, install early warning systems and disaster preparedness measures, she said.

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Norway, Mr. Tore Nedrebø said, the real practitioners of DRR are people of Pakistan. He said, each region of Pakistan has different issues of climate change, hazards and human activity has become an additive in creating imbalances. FOCUS has a history of long term commitment with people Pakistan, said the ambassador. He said, FOCUS is equipped with modern technology, trained human-capital and community volunteers. He appreciated the team of FOCUS for successful implementation of project and achieving good results.

Addressing panel discussion, Daud Saqlain – Head of Programmes ActionAid Pakistan said, women, children and senior citizens suffer more in disasters. He said, state institutions need to be equipped for sustainable solutions to address the issues of climate change and disasters.

Speaking on the occasion, Climate Change Specialist, Kanwar Javed Iqbal said, there are issues of devolution and granting fiscal powers to third tier of government in Punjab and KPK. The index of vulnerability in GBC is high but the fiscal allocation is meager, GBDMA, PDMAs and DMAs need to play proactive role in such events.

Panel Discussion FOCUS SeminarAddressing the participants, National Project Coordinator, DRR in Pakistan Project, UNDP Pakistan, Naeem Iqbal said, role of state cannot be ignored in terms of handling disasters. An integrated mechanism with the involvement district administration, local government, communities and NGOs can address the issues of climate change and disasters.

Speaking on the occasion, Irshad Khan Abbasi – Director Rural Development, Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan said, the resilience of people of Pakistan at times of disasters is unprecedented, be it earthquake or floods, people gave a spontaneous response which is indeed a positive sign. He appreciated the efforts of partner agencies, stakeholders and members associated with FOCUS from entire GBC for their commitment with cause.

Expressing views about role of media, senior broadcast journalist Tariq Mahmood said, media outlets have different priorities. They give less attention to the far-flung districts, for quality work it requires quality time, vision and training of journalist. The other major obstacle for a district reporter is, for a single story he/she needs to seek prior approvals from hierarchy sitting at the headquarters, Tariq said.

Members of FOCUS, volunteers and police personnel were invited from GBC to share their experiences about disasters and their role in mitigation measures.

Realizing the need of DRR, a policy document by Government of Pakistan lays special emphasis on risk assessment, prevention, mitigation and preparedness, with the aim of creating a resilient nation. Various national and international organizations in Pakistan are doing the needful to support the cause of disaster risk reduction and resilient communities.

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