UN helps corporate sector unite for a cause

Published: November 9, 2010

(L to R) Mahvash Siddiqui, Sultana Siddiqui, Saira Siddiqui and Jahangir Siddiqui. Photos: Noor Javeri/Express

KARACHI: Around 160,000 displaced flood victims in Sindh are still in immediate need of shelter while 4,200 functional camps have been established.

These statistics were presented by UNHCR Emergency Coordinator for Sindh, Emanuel Gignac at the ‘United for a Cause’ conference held at the Mohatta Palace Museum on Monday evening.

To coordinate relief efforts in flood-affected areas of Sindh, Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation (MJSF) collaborated with the UN to set up a joint secretariat which enables private sector donors to work with these institutions that are equipped with knowledge about the disaster at a grass-roots level.

“We want to tie in different donors and agencies to corporate organisations so we can give them the support of UN and data of PDMA when they are conducting relief efforts,” said Ali J Siddiqui, managing partner of JS Private Equity Fund, explaining that a UN survey of affected areas will be provided to donors who wish to conduct relief work in Sindh. Low-cost UN Habitat approved house designs will be available, which are acceptable to the local population and based on local materials, while training to build those structures will also be provided by the organisations. He explained that this coordination aims to avoid overlapping and duplication of relief efforts, and is a forum where the corporate sector can coordinate their individual efforts.

Referring to the various UN booths set up on the premises, head of communication for MJSF Imran Sheikh explained that the project took one month to organise, as approvals for UN officials and setting up booths required time.

DG PDMA Sualeh Faruqi described the strategy as an institutional mechanism that will help achieve progress in rehabilitation of flood affected areas, and as a forum for donors to discuss their efforts and concerns. “Effective action needs to be timely, coordinated and well-resourced; this is a place for us to share concerns and be innovative with our guests — the UN,” he said.

While most present in the audience were unanimous in observing that the conference was a noble effort orchestrated by MJSF, there were some who believed that it lacks an effective strategy. “We don’t need foreign aid or UN workers to overcome this disaster,” said Akeel Bilgrami, chairman of the Board of Architectural Education. “Who can provide statistics better than the government?” he asked, adding that training locals in disaster management would be more cost-effective than bringing in foreign workers.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2010.

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