New Islamic Relief research and a roadmap to resilience have added momentum to disaster risk reduction in Sindh, Pakistan.

The research into disaster vulnerabilities and capacity in Sindh – a province that is particularly prone to both flooding and drought – was launched at Islamic Relief Pakistan consultation held last month. The workshop included the director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, UN agencies, as well as national and international NGOs and members of civil society. It aimed to bring decision-makers together to minimise the risk disasters pose to the people of Sindh.

Flooding in Sindh during 2011.

Flooding in Sindh during 2011.

Islamic Relief’s interim head of programme Summaya Sajjad explained how the study assessed community and institutional engagement and what they do when disasters strike. “We also want to identify the challenges and issues faced by the government and communities at the time of disaster,” she said. “As well as the steps communities take to overcome the losses sustained in three districts: Sanghar, Dadu and Thatta.”

Far-reaching impact of disasters

Sharing the key findings of the study, our area programme manager, Sajjad Khan, pointed out the far-reaching impact of disasters. Livelihoods, health and living conditions are badly affected, and people may be traumatised by the experience, he said. In the drought-hit areas covered by the study, essential groundwater has been depleted by 30-40 feet. With no easy way to access water sources, malnutrition and disease outbreaks were rife among poor communities.

Whilst most community efforts focused on disaster-response, the research revealed, these were not informed by knowledge of community-level initiatives or emerging practices to prepare for disasters and reduce their impact when they occur.

“Almost all of the communities relied on institutional support for these systems,” said Sajjad Khan, “which made them highly vulnerable, due to the low probability of recovery and preparedness resulting from institutional dependency.”

A roadmap to resilience

Our disaster risk reduction and climate change specialist, Shahid Kazmi, presented a roadmap for disaster risk reduction in the province. An essential step forward will be creating community-led initiatives through capacity-building training, as well as developing local institutional structures and mechanisms for community integration.

Our disaster risk reduction and climate change specialist presented the roadmap.

Our disaster risk reduction and climate change specialist presented the roadmap.

The director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Salman Shah, welcomed the roadmap and emphasised the need for an integrated approach to disaster risk reduction in Sindh.

“Sindh faces serious challenges in the form of increasing food insecurity, climate change, droughts, and the declining capacity of provincial social service institutions,” he said, urging organisations to work together with government and civil society, and pledging the support of the PDMA.

Islamic Relief is delivering a number of initiatives across Pakistan to reduce the damage caused by disasters, and to empower communities to better protect themselves. These include building community resilience in Khyber Pakhtoonkhw, and contributing to developing a roadmap for disaster risk reduction in AJK and Sindh.