Pakistan is one of those countries who had seen most of natural disasters during last decade in south Asia. Earth quakes, floods, terrorism badly hit this country one after another but every time our departments and ministries making promises that next time it will not happening and sometimes it is stated from government side that we are ready for disaster after early call about a disasters but every time at the end we are accepting that we had learned lesson and next we will overcome on these shortcomings due to which we have not efficiently managed last disaster.
Recently Pakistan’s meteorology department again reminds to government and public organization to be prepare for floods which may affect our coastal areas of kyber pakhtunkhwa. Personally I am feeling and recommending that before any planning for future we may again read the lessons taught by the disastrous flood of 2010 in Pakistan to us. Following are the areas identified during floods of 2010.
1) Lack of Capacity: Capacity was an issue not only for NDMA but also for most stakeholders including UN Agencies, INGOs and national NGOs. The short-term deployment, sometimes for as little as two or three weeks, of UN and INGO personnel to Pakistan from other emergencies was identified by stakeholders as a problem area, as they had little time to understand the ground realities before leaving again. Creating sufficient surge capacity both nationally and internationally is an area to be addressed for future emergencies. Management and capacity issues presented a serious challenge in Punjab and Sindh. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, people were trained over a period of time in best practices of camp management, food distribution and development of systems, the capacities that rarely existed in the south and this led to shortfalls and delay in response. This capacity was built up later but critical time was lost in the process. The delay had a profound impact on providing rapid assistance to the affected people and increased their suffering.
2) Lack of Coordination: Coordination was one of the most challenging and complex aspects of the relief phase, whether between centre-province, government and UN, inter-agency or within the overall humanitarian community in general. Many stakeholders interviewed highlighted the coordination challenges between NDMA and the PDMAs. While there were significant successes in the coordination mechanisms utilized, such as the various clusters at the federal and regional hub levels, and the Strategic Leaders Forum, there were also examples of coordination shortcomings that need to be addressed. For example, a lack of effective coordination was also identified by some stakeholders in relation to the UN’s internal strategic decision-making processes, because of differences amongst the top-tier UN leadership in the country and among these agencies. Coordination issues between the GoP and the UN were highlighted by many stakeholders. There were several key areas of contention between the GoP and the UN that led to tensions and delays that could have been avoided.
- The first was the issue of the NATO air bridge. The Government invited NATO to assist in the transport of relief goods to Pakistan but the UN intervened against the knowledge of the Government and advised NATO that they were not required. Many stakeholders identified this as an area where UN had overstepped their mandate in not respecting the wishes of the Government. The GOP ultimately accepted the NATO flights.
- The second was the launch of the Pakistan Floods Relief and Early Recovery Response Plan (PFRERRP). The appeal was initially launched in New York without the sign-off of the GoP. Further, the UN resisted the wishes of the GoP regarding the usage of terminology standard to GoP documentation and efforts by NDMA and the GoP for greater scrutiny of the projects in the appeal. These issues led to significant delays in the eventual launch of the appeal and the flow of much-needed funds.
- Thirdly, there was resistance from the UN to the GoP’s direction that the relief phase should close on 31 January and move to the Early Recovery phase. This was the cause of further friction between the GoP and the UN, and created confusion at provincial and district level.
1) Strategic shifting: Affecting a strategic shift of relief efforts to Punjab and Sindh as the floods moved southward through the country proved a challenge. The IDP crisis in 2009 had seen a mushrooming of INGOs and national NGOs and an alignment of donor support in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Warehouses, systems and networks were well established and when the 2010 floods struck, there was a comfort level in operating there for many organizations. Conversely, Punjab and Sindh had not suffered such major emergencies in the recent past and systems were almost non-existent. Local NGOs in these two provinces had little knowledge on how to prepare documentation for donor funding, making it difficult if not impossible for them to receive support. INGOs were slow to move to the area and it was difficult for NDMA to encourage them to make the strategic shift to move or expand their operations from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into southern parts of Punjab and Sindh.
2) Civil and military collaboration: The cooperation, collaboration or complementarities of civil and military stakeholders in an emergency is integral to a successful response. In the Pakistan floods, the relationship between the civil and military sectors was mostly effective and harmonious. However, there was a lack of clarity on some issues with regard to sharing of information between the military and humanitarian community that needs to be resolved in future disasters to avoid overlapping and duplication in distribution of relief goods. Other issues that arose related to the ‘last resort’ guideline for use of military assets, and the use of armed escorts for NGOs.
3) Media criticism: In the early days of the emergency, the media was focused on criticizing the government and raising allegations of corruption. This detracted from the impetus to contribute to the relief efforts by the public and donors. While such undue politicization of the relief efforts was considerably damaging in the short run, the situation improved with more efforts to sensitize the media on the needs of the people, and significant efforts by media groups to launch their own appeals to support relief efforts.
4) Parallel decision making bodies: Parallel decision making bodies created confusion about mandates. This area warrants immediate attention. According to the National Disaster Management Act, the NDMC is the apex body for disaster-related policy formulation in Pakistan with representation from centre, all federating units and areas of the country, military and civil society. The shifting of responsibility from NDMC to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the formation of the National Oversight Disaster Management Council (NODMC), added a further layer of confusion for stakeholders as to which was the key oversight body for relief efforts. While robust Government oversight of relief, recovery and reconstruction activities is of utmost importance, this created a perceived duplication of authority and one that on occasions may have slowed the decision-making process for stakeholders. It may be timely for the Government of Pakistan to review the role for parallel committees and, at the same time, review the National Disaster Management Act, and if necessary, to strengthen it to ensure a clear definition of mandates, roles and responsibilities.
5) Cluster approach: The Cluster approach was applied to coordinate and organize the humanitarian community, with this disaster marking the first time 12 clusters were rolled out in an emergency in Pakistan. The number of clusters to be deployed was a point of contention between the Govt. of Pakistan and the UN leadership. This is an issue for which consensus is required between these two stakeholders in advance of any future disaster. The clusters achieved varying degrees of success in the coordination of the humanitarian community and setting the strategic direction of their respective sectorial response. Information management, as well as monitoring and reporting of planned activities, were some of the areas of concern for all clusters. For instance, different UN agencies came up with caseload numbers that not only contradicted the multi-cluster engagement approach, but also the official caseload numbers. Agreement on baseline data is imperative to avoid confusion for all stakeholders. The UN and the cluster system must also ensure compliance with the agenda of aid effectiveness by proper prioritization of needs and resources, establishing transparent procedures and accountability mechanisms.
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