Towards the end of July 2010, heavy rains triggered massive flooding across up to one fifth of the country, killing over 1,900 people and affecting more than 18 million, of whom 14 million were initially in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. The water level of the Indus River reached its highest level in 110 years of recorded history. In total, 09 ActionAid DAs across Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Punjab provinces were affected by the floods. Two DAs Kot Adu (South Punjab) and Shahdad Kot (Sindh) were severely hit by the floods, and the peripheries of other DAs (Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Layyah, Bhakkar, Mianwali /Khushab, Pind Dadan Khan and Swabi) were inundated. AAPk responded in all above areas and also in four non DAs, namely Swat, Shangla, Sibi and Kashmore. In 2011 AAPk has started rehabilitation and long term DA work in Thatta (Sindh) in view of chronic flood risk and vulnerability of the people.
AAPk's overall emergency response and rehabilitation programme includes the following core areas of work: meeting immediate needs; women's rights, food security, disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction, policy/ advocacy and governance, (shelter, livelihoods, psychosocial support and protection). In each area, we prioritise women and girls to build their capacity and facilitate their participation through self-sustained active leadership.
ActionAid prioritised women in its emergency response and right from the relief efforts they were the focus of AA's intervention in all aspects. The food kits, shelter kits and hygiene kits were developed to meet women's specific needs.
In the initial rescue and relief work, AAPk's partners rescued women and children and provided shelter in the relief camps. Several pregnant and lactating women arrived there and were looked after (nutrition, medical care, child birth and post partum follow up medical care was provided).
We supported women headed households with relief items (food, hygiene kits, household items) and started social mobilisation process which involved need identification for cash for work (livelihood and shelter reconstruction support for women) etc. In order to provide psycho-social support to vulnerable women and children, women and child friendly spaces have been formed. A total of 21 such centres have so far benefitted over 10,500 women and girls.
Interactive street theatres, community meetings and awareness sessions have been arranged (on going) to develop women's understanding and awareness on gender based violence, protection and harassment in camp environment. Awareness sessions were also organised on women's equal compensation rights as well as disaster risk reduction etc. We worked with vulnerable women to support them to access relief, protection and inclusion in relief and rehabilitation. We also worked with women who faced harassment in camp situation and other protection issues, and organised and mobilised them against injustices, especially in the post flood situation.
AAPk ran a project in Charsaddah (KPK) where eight multipurpose women's committees have been formed which have lobbied provincial disaster management authority (PDMA) to establish a gender cell at provincial level to address the issues of gender specifically.
Now in the advance phase of emergency response women are being supported to restore livelihood sources by means of cash for work and agricultural support. Women headed seed banks and women farmers' cooperatives have also been formed.
We also supported women to understand their rights in the post emergency situation and demand access to government's compensation scheme (watan cards). “Women's right to land” has also been a priority area of AAPk's post-flood policy advocacy work. A number of women groups have been mobilised to demand prioritisation of women in land demarcation, credit facilities and agricultural extension services for women farmers and landless women peasants.
ActionAid believes that the flood disaster in Pakistan provides a unique opportunity to change the power relationships which keep people poor and contribute to the increased vulnerability of, and discrimination against women and girls. Post-floods research identified an increase in gender-based violence as a key concern, along with discrimination against women and other marginalised groups in claiming government compensation through the “Watan” card scheme. In addition, livelihood and food security remains an issue, as does access to land, seed, fertiliser and other agricultural inputs.
In line with our rights based approach, we worked with partner organisations to mobilise the flood-affected communities to actively engage in the relief (and later, recovery and reconstruction) processes at village, tehsil and district level. Mobilisation of women, to enable them to claim their rights, has been a core component of the response to date.
At local level, community mobilisation has been done with local advocacy groups supported by ActionAid and local partners organising sit-ins, protest rallies, press conferences and protests to push policy issues.
At national level, ActionAid Pakistan has linked with the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), a coordination and policy/advocacy forum of INGOs working in the country (including some key donors). We also engaged with farmers' networks and civil society organisations to arrange multi stakeholder press conferences, rallies, marches and other advocacy actions to raise issues around food security, land and livelihood of small/landless farmers, price hike, land ownership for women, access to government's compensation etc.
At international level, we have engaged with the UN Cluster System to ensure information sharing, coordination and help identify gaps in the response. We liaised with United Nations Department of Safety and Security and INGO Security Forums to keep abreast of security related issues in the flood affected areas and to ensure safety of staffs.