Imminent disasters need robust responses


In the wake of Provincial Disaster Management Authority’s (PDMA) alert call for upcoming disasters from weather anomalies in some district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) made the people living in most vulnerable districts like Chitral apprehended.

According to the PDMA contingency plan in three phases i.e. most, moderate and less vulnerable Chitral profiled  most-vulnerable district with nine other districts of KP province. These most vulnerable districts more, moderately and less vulnerable areas are less prone to monsoon rains that could lost in three months.

Chitral has already experienced heavy and extreme disaster in Sonoghur, avalanche in Wasich, and some other areas in 2008 after 24 years later. It was due to Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOF) and avalanche respectively turned the beautiful valley of Sonoghur into a barren land and lives in Wasich in which the people and necessary items of the people were airlifted by FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance Program, along government emergency response institutions. Same disastrous situation happened in Buni for two consecutive years later as a result of GLOF, since the global warming and climate change’s early signs in Chitral have targeted worst and been heavy.

Chitral having been prone to the GLOF, Flash Floods, earthquake, and now Monsoon rains may bring catastrophe to already floods and earthquake-hit people of Chitral. It needs Provincial disaster management authority and private sector emergency organisations to have a collaborative controlled action pre-and-post disaster plan for this year. The Provincial government and private sector emergency response teams should also keep track of vulnerabilities in the areas of Chitral more to minimise live losses. Worrisome it’s been when International Red Crescent Society, Pakistan indicated the increasing glaciers melting alarmed fear bell in Chitral.

Since 16 years working in Pakistan, Focus Humanitarian Assistance has responded to over a dozen of natural and man-made disasters, and preparing communities to become disaster resilient. The long term strategy of Focus to develop a network of volunteers in disaster-prone areas, and having over 36,000 trained volunteers in ‘search’, ‘rescue’ and community-based disaster risk management capabilities is a big strength of the organisation. Devastating floods in 2015 resulted from monsoon rains, GLOF and Flash Floods 100 villages affected in Chitral, in which volunteers played a role. Later earthquake, left many families paralysed since some of the  houses fully damaged, and many partially damaged vulnerable to live in, in which Pakistan Army, emergency response of Focus, Al-Khidmat Foundation, some other civil society organisations, and Local administration rescue and rehabilitation services in affected areas of Chitral were praiseworthy.

Keeping in mind previous years experiences some important step these private and public sector emergency response organisations and institutions need to take in Chitral this year for proactively minimising hazards, risks, and tackling emergency situation lest takes place:

  1. Proper coordination and communication amongst public and private sector organisations/institutions in dealing and responding to emergency to be developed. Using each others’ expertise, experiences, and man and material resources for a particular emergency resulting from Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods, Flash Floods, and Monsoon rains.
  2. Keeping track of emergency by warning systems, formal information sharing, and coordinating in installing modernised emergency warning systems in some places.
  3. Proper messaging system via communication service providing networks to the local subscribers on warning and emergency situations would be an authentic source of information for disaster preparedness.
  4. Focus, Al-Khidmat and some other emergency response organisations (if they have) should reinvigorate their volunteers rehearsing their search, rescue, risk and disaster management capabilities for better response.
  5. Rumours created havoc among already affected people in different areas during floods in Chitral (shepherd havoc in Buni and Reshun), during earthquake ( in whole upper Chitral), this time a proper communication channel should be established between public and private sectors for message dissemination. Communication with communities to be made by in a proper and institutional means, i.e. media, community centres, volunteer(s), and community leader(s). But it’s also important to ensure that message to be communicated with communities in verbatim― means without over or under-stated.
  6. Lest an emergency situation happens, relief measures promptly and properly be launched by both public and private sector with full coordination in minimizing life losses first (as has been done last year), airlifting of people and things, and distribute supplies and medicines in the affect area(s) on the basis of need and severity.
  7. Controlled and extensive planning should be made to tackle the emergency situation in shifting affectees to already identified safe places, providing basic facilities of first aid, food, health and hygiene afterwards.
  8. Vulnerable physical communication systems (roads/bridges) should be identified for emergency rehabs, since air communication system in mountainous areas of Chitral should be ready every time. (The road to Lotkoh valley at Shasha, Kalash valley to Dubash, and to upper Chitral near Kuragh is already vulnerable).
  9. Emergency, risk and disaster management placards, booklets, ads, and manuals should be prepared and distributed among the people in disaster-prone areas, particularly in the areas in which no proper training and awareness programs have been launched in Chitral.
  10. The areas where communication system is non-existence or chances of the collapse of the communication networks likely where organisations should have their own reliable focal person(s) for communication and sending updates. Possibly focal person should be given modern reliable communication system gadgets/devices.

The writer is M.Phil Research Scholar in the University of Peshawar. He can be reached @9AM.Khan

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