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Disaster Preparedness is Key to Preventing Devastation

In July and August 2010, excessive monsoon rainfall causing breaches in irrigation canals resulted in countrywide large-scale flash flooding, the worst to hit Pakistan in 80 years. More than 18 million people were affected and a total of 1,980 were killed.  In addition, 1.6 million houses were destroyed.

Disaster preparedness is key to preventing devastation.  In Pakistan, no early warning systems had been installed in most of the areas where the floods hit and dykes on river banks had not been properly maintained.  The floods arrived suddenly and unexpectedly, which meant that the government and citizens didn’t have the opportunity to rescue their homes, crops and other resources, which were swept away. Once the floods had hit, the government lacked the resources and capacity required to reach out to the millions of people affected across the country.

To date, ActionAid Pakistan has supported over 718,000 people.  However, here are still large numbers of people who are not adequately prepared to deal with potential hazards and the need remains to work with communities. 

During the recovery phase, ActionAid has focused on Disaster Risk Reduction activities including raising awareness of Early Warning Systems.  The biggest challenge now is the risk of another major disaster in the face of inefficiency related to capacity of national, provincial and district disaster management authorities. However, ActionAid Pakistan is focusing on prevention, preparation and risk reduction work, in particular community based Disaster Risk Reduction models and contingency plans at community level.

As women and children tend to be more vulnerable in the aftermath of major hazards and disasters, we need to put more measures in place to prevent crimes like trafficking, child marriage and violence against women and girls.  Landless rural communities - particularly women - have been badly affected by successive disasters and yet were excluded from government initiated flood compensation schemes. There is an urgent need for the government to allow rural women access to resources, particularly land, and also recognise women as peasant workers by registering them in the revenue department.