UN launches Rapid Response Plan with $356 million to help flood victims

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations on Sunday launched an appeal to raise 356 million dollars under its Rapid Response Plan 2011, which will be spent initially on 91 projects in the flood affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan , due to heavy monsoon rains.The Rapid Response Plan 2011 was launched here at a local hotel by Humanitarian Coordinator of United Nations, Timo Pakkala at a ceremony where Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan was the chief guest.Representatives of diplomatic community, UN organizations, government departments, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and others were present on the occasion in which the UN Humanitarian Coordinator launched this plan.

The Rapid Response Plan has been launched on the appeal made by President Asif Ali Zardari after his visit to the flood affected areas of Sindh when he phoned the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for generating funds from the international community to help the victims due to gravity of the devastation caused by unprecedented rains.It is an initial plan for emergency needs, which will be reviewed after a month to assess the actual needs, when the complete destruction and damage data will be compiled from the affected areas.Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan while addressing the launching of the Rapid Response Plan said unprecedented heavy rainfall have affected  23 districts of Sindh and five districts of Balochistan.The Minister said the situation further compounded due to a number of breaches in all the irrigation channels and Left Bank Out Fall Drain.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said, unfortunately 342  precious lives have been lost due to the floods while 633 persons were injuried and millions of people are vulnerable to different diseases, particularly acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria and  infections. She said, “More than 7.1 million people have been directly affected out of which 491,000 people have been accommodated in 2618 relief camps.”As many as 1.3 million houses have been damaged and over 6 million acres of land including 2 million acres cultivated land has been affected,she added.The Minister said heavy damages to property, infrastructure, agriculture and livestock have been reported, however, the actual damages could be ascertained after detailed damages and needs assessment is carried out.

The Information Minister said the Government of Pakistan, under the dynamic leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, despite being faced with resource constraints, has so far mobilized approximately 166,000 tents, over 869,000 family food packs and a large number of other relief items including blankets, mosquito nets, water purification units, medicines and jerry cans etc.She said, “The government had tried its best to cope with the situation by itself, however, due to the sheer scale of the disaster it came to the conclusion that the situation exceeds the capacity of any single stakeholder.”She said in view of this President Asif Ali Zardari requested UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to supplement the Government’s efforts.

The Minister hoped that the people of Pakistan would receive similar generous support as has been extended by friends and international community in the past for the Rapid Response Plan of $356 million.“We are confident that the Rapid Response Plan – Pakistan Floods 2011, launched today, jointly by Pakistan Government and the UN would receive the required funds from donors,” she added.The Minister said Pakistan government together with the UN would ensure transparency and accountability in the utilization and delivery of the assistance to the affected people in a most efficient manner.  She said it is natural disaster as people of Pakistan especially living in Sindh are unfortunately once again passing through great hardship due to unexpected and unprecedented heavy monsoon rains.

She said Pakistan is prone to hydro meteorological disasters; however, the frequency and intensity of such disasters have increased in the recent past, primarily due to climate change phenomenon experienced all over the world.The Minister said a well placed three-tier disaster management system consisting of district, provincial and national disaster management authorities has been evolved by the government.Referring to the issue of visa and permission to the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international community to reach to the flood affected areas, the Information Minister assured that there is no such problem and government of Pakistan has been facilitating the donors in this regard.She said previous response of international community so far was due to Pakistan’s personal efforts at international level while the UN has launched its campaign today and expressed the hope that there will be good response of this campaign.

Humanitarian Coordinator of United Nations, Timo Pakkala while announcing the Rapid Response Plan said it is basically for the 91 projects identified initially to provide shelter, food, medicines and clean drinking water in the affected areas.He said the UN has already started supply of food, shelter, medicines and other basic needs of life to the flood affected areas without waiting for the funds to be generated.Timo Pakkala said this plan is for initial response to the victims and it will be reviewed after 45 days to revise the needs and demands of the people of the affected areas.Giving some details, he said, with the present resources of Pakistan government, only 30 percent shelter could be provided to the homeless victims.

He said out of 5.44 million affected people there are 2.60 million women and 1.96 million children, while 1.8 million people have been displaced and 1.0 million houses have been damaged.He said 64 percent people in the flood affected areas are without clean drinking water while 67 percent food stock of the people had been destroyed.He said 70 percent crops in the area have been damaged while 280,000 families have lost their livestock.Replying to a question, Timo Pakkala said so far no country has announced its pledge under the Rapid Response Plan 2011 adding that some of the countries have already announced their donations before.

He however clarified that it will be up to the donor countries either they want to contribute directly on bilateral basis or they can contribute through this Rapid Response Plan.He said Rapid Response Plan is for providing immediate relief and after its revision, a fresh plan would be prepared for reconstruction,rehabilitation and improvement of other basic facilities to the flood victims.Brigadier Sajid Naeem, representing National Disaster Management Authority explained the contingent plan and ongoing efforts of the NDMA for the assistance of flood victims.

He said NDMA has been coordinating with other departments of the federal and provincial governments and international  community to provide best possible help to the flood victims without delay.He said the NDMA had already prepared a contingent plan according to the reports of Met office, but the rains were much more than the assessments of Met office and beyond the capacity of the canals and rivers that created more damage. – APP