For flood survivors, Centre’s attitude as cold as winter


More than six months have passed since the monsoon flood ravaged the southern part of the Sindh province, but 1.5 million survivors in the affected districts of the province are still without shelter. With the winter season at its peak, the affectees have been facing a serious threat of contracting various diseases, some of them fatal. Moreover, the federal government has abruptly stopped relief activities, including provision of temporary shelters, and it has yet to initiate the early recovery phase in the flood-hit areas.
These facts were disclosed in the Civil Society Flood Situation Report issued by the Peoples Accountability Commission on Floods (PACF), a network of flood-affected communities and volunteers working with them.
Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, PACF members, including Saleem Abbasi, Rafique Channa and Waheed Panhwar, said that the Commission has been issuing a series of reports on the situation of the flood-hit communities.
PACF’s eighth report focuses mainly on the needs and shelter-related issues of the flood-affected communities.
The Commission regretted the government’s delayed intervention in the early recovery initiatives for providing temporary shelters to the flood-hit people.
The report said that the government had stopped relief activities on December 31 to initiate the early recovery initiatives from January 1, as food for work, cash for work and temporary shelter, but no plans have been made yet in this regard.
In 23 flood-affected districts, more than 1.5 million houses have been damaged or destroyed, whereas emergency shelters have been provided to only 27 percent of the survivors, added the report.
It said that 628,111 houses were completely destroyed and 730,046 partially damaged in Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Shaheed Benazirabad, Umerkot, Badin and Mirpurkhas.
“Badin district has asked the Provincial Disaster Management Authority to extend relief services keeping in view the severity of the situation, but no decision has been announced as yet in this regard,” it added.
The report said that three months are suggested as the standard period for the relief phase, but the proposed intervention by the World Food Programme for unconditional food support to uncovered population has not met the target, besides the delay in initiation of the early recovery initiatives.
The logic and intention of the National Disaster Management Authority to stop relief services are not clear in black and white, but it has been verbally remarked by the government authorities in meetings that the Pakistan card would cover the gap and sustainable development would be prioritised, added the report.
According to the report, the early recovery framework is supposed to build transitional and permanent shelter for the flood-affected communities, activate the skilled and unskilled labour markets, and boost up the supply chain and market related to building industries.
The report said that the coming post-emergency projects would take two months to translate into activities causing sufferings for the flood survivors.
The Commission urged the government to start rebuilding the destroyed houses on priority basis and expedite the process of service delivery in the affected districts of the province.
It recommended that the modalities of the village model system should be developed keeping in view the environmental, social and demographical implications in the flood-hit districts.
They demanded developing community dialogue and shelter committees to ensure participation of the community for the selection of the most vulnerable, such as widows as household heads, the disabled people or the underprivileged people without any assets.
They urged the government to distribute winter-related items as part of relief services to those who are without any shelter.
The government should ensure meaningful and effective coordination with its humanitarian partners to support the flood-affected communities, they added.
Their report said that flood response should be devolved to district-level for speeding up the relief work, and interference on provincial level must be minimised.
Basic coordination structures between the government and the United Nations should be standardised for effective information-sharing and service delivery, and efforts should be made to cover the unmet needs of the people, particularly those living in emergency shelters, until the early recovery initiatives commence, added the report.
It said that the government should learn from the experiences of the 2010 floods, and prepare for well-calculated interventions in response to damages caused by rains or floods.
The most vulnerable suffer the most in winter and they must be prioritised as old-aged, children, the disabled, and pregnant and lactating women.