Unready for disaster

Pakistan’s own authorities appear to have made no acknowledgement that problems could arise with the monsoon.

Editorial July 28, 2011

Anew report by UK charity Oxfam provides a frightening picture of how near Pakistan could be to yet another disaster. The report, titled “Ready or Not”, points out that the country still has to make a recovery from the flood last year, which affected over 21 million people. Many people hit have yet to be rehoused — 37,000 still live in camps and 800,000 families across the country remain without homes. It is obvious that people have no faith in the government’s ability to protect them. Many are reluctant to plant new crops, fearing they may once again be destroyed by gushing waters as the monsoon rains begin. Despite the claims of the National Disaster Management Authority that contingency plans have been made to deal with any emergency, Oxfam warns that Pakistan is not sufficiently prepared and that there has been insufficient investment in the building of schools that will not be washed away when it rains and in the basic welfare of people. Their vulnerability because of these factors leaves them more open to harm. And, as we all know, it is the poorest groups in society who suffer most whenever disaster strikes. As was the case before, they remain at risk, with rising waters in rivers already reported to have lead some families to try and move to safer ground.

What seems to make the situation worse, according to this new report, is the reluctance of the international community to give out assistance. A UN appeal for funding fell short by some $600 million. The apprehension that widespread corruption may lead to the misuse of money is a factor in this. What is also disturbing is that Pakistan’s own authorities appear to have made no acknowledgement that problems could arise with the monsoon and are insisting that things are under control. The Oxfam report strongly questions this notion. We must hope that the calamity Oxfam fears does not occur — but, at the same time, steps must be taken to prepare for it if it does indeed strike.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2011.


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