World Humanitarian Day: Lack of coordination obstructing effective relief

Most organisations have made first-aid training mandatory for volunteers.

Aroosa Shaukat August 18, 2011


A lack of coordination among various aid organisations working in the country often obstructs effective delivery of relief works, Pakistan Relief president Mujtaba Imran said on Thursday.

Talking to The Express Tribune in connection with the World Humanitarian Day, Imran said aid and volunteer work organisations needed to be prepared to deal with emergencies all the time.

Imran said more than 800 volunteers of Pakistan Relief worked participated in the relief efforts after the October 2005 earthquake. He said the number of volunteers working with the NGO rose to 6,000 during last year’s flood. Pakistan Relief wound up its medical relief work in Shahdadkot and Jaffarabad areas in April.

Imran said he had been associated with humanitarian aid since 2003. “I volunteered for relief efforts for the Leh flood in Rawalpindi,” he said.

Before 2010 floods, he said, he had already volunteered for relief work after the 2003 earthquake in Iran, 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and the 2005 earthquake in Northern Areas of Pakistan.

Ishrat Rizvi, the National Communication Officer at the World Health Organisation Pakistan, said most of the volunteers associated with the organisation were still engaged in relief and rehabilitation efforts in the flood zone.

Sahara for Life Trust marketing manager Farooq Baloch said as many as 15,000 people had volunteered for his organisation’s relief and rescue work during last year’s flood.

He said they had distributed food and other essential items among people stranded in flood-hit areas as well as set up medical relief camps.

He said Sahara Trust volunteers had also volunteered for relief work in Lebanon following Isreal’s attack on Lebanon.

There are at least 130 NGOs engaged with relief and rehabilitation work in flood-hit areas, according to Pakistan Flood Response Map. PFRM is a US Chamber of Commerce initiative to document work done by various organisations during the 2010 flood. The website was launched in September 2010.

Of the 130 NGOs, 90 were working in flood-affected areas of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa – the largest region affected by the flood.

The National Disaster Management Authority has estimated the number of casualties during the flood at 2,000. According to an NDMA survey, almost 70 per cent of the country’s population had inadequate supply of food and were forced to drink contaminated water.

Imran and Baloch said so far there had been no loss of life during relief works.

They said in order to prepare their volunteers to deal with any emergencies they had arranged first-aid training courses before sending them in the field. They said safety of the volunteers was their primary concern.

The WHO is organising a video production competition all over the world to encourage more youngsters to volunteer for humanitarian work.

Rizvi said videos submissions on “ways to counter humanitarian crises” can be made through YouTube. He said three best videos each would be selected from all five regions in which the 193 UN states have been divided. The winners will be taken to the United Nations Headquarters in New York for three days to observe its operations.

Attacking aid workers is a war crime

Geneva Conventions of 1949 did not contain provisions to guarantee the security of aid workers in conflict areas.

In 2003, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution and declared attacks on aid workers a war crime.

Angola, Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq top the list of the number of humanitarian aid workers killed during relief work. More than 50 per cent of those killed so far had been affiliated with the UN programmes.

World Humanitarian Day

August 19 was declared as World Humanitarian Day by the UN General Assembly in 2008 to honour Sergio Vieira de Mello, a humanitarian worker.

De Mello and 21 others had lost their lives during a bomb blast at a hotel in Baghdad in 2003.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.