UN and Government of Pakistan Working Together to Protect Against Future Flood Damage

Regional High-Level Expert Group Meets to Reduce Flood Disaster Risk in Pakistan

After unprecedented floods in Pakistan killed 1,974 people, damaged 1.65 million houses, and destroyed 2.24 million hectares of crop land earlier this year, the United Nations has continued to partner with of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to help the country increase flood resiliency.

The Regional High-Level Expert Group Meeting, organized by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, took place 9-10 November in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Gathered experts addressed the main challenges of strengthening a culture of disaster risk reduction in Pakistan’s development policies and of formulating a plan of action for the establishment of a regional cooperation mechanism.

“We have to make our communities more resilient to all vulnerabilities and future disasters,” said Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “We have to make safer the lives of our people, particularly the poor. In effect, we have to build a culture of prevention and systems of social protection to address old and new vulnerabilities.”

Mr. Nadeem Ahmed, Chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, gave an overview of relief and rescue operations, disbursement of cash assistance, early recovery plan, and the reconstruction and rehabilitation strategies being conceptualized.

During this Regional High-level meeting, experts on disaster risk reduction discussed pre- and post-disaster issues including agriculture and livestock, disaster resilient housing, urban and land use planning, flood forecasting, education, advocacy and community-based disaster risk management. Experts noted that the destruction caused by the floods, which affected more than 20.18 million people, was compounded by existing humanitarian and development needs within the country.

“Pakistan was already facing an internally displaced persons crisis and long term development challenges before the floods occurred,” Dr Heyzer said. “Despite these huge challenges there have been major successes achieved in people returning to their home areas. Today Pakistan urgently needs not just a reconstruction and recovery plan, but a strategy to build a new future.”

Representatives from across Asia and the Pacific region – including China, Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea - shared experiences on building and improving disaster resilient communities and cities, citing practical examples.

World Bank and the Asian Development Bank representatives highlighted the findings of the Post Disaster Needs assessment survey which fond the Pakistan floods caused a US $9.7 billion in damages to infrastructure, farms, homes and other direct and indirect losses.

As the final outcome of the meeting, the tripartite core-group, ESCAP-UNCT-GoP, will develop a mechanism to incorporate disaster risk reduction into early recovery plans and mainstream disaster risk reduction in to future development plans of Pakistan.

Participating regional and international organizations include Asian Development Bank, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), Asian Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM), United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), Typhoon Committee, World Bank, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Microsoft.

More details of future development, meeting proceedings and reports can be found here.

Findings of these discussions are available at http://www.unescap.org/idd/events/2010_Pakistan_Floods_II/index.asp