Communities lead efforts to reduce the risk of disasters
In the past months, 35-year-old Fauzia Tabbassum has taken on a crucial role in protecting the safety of the residents of Singhoor, her home village in Pakistan’s remote mountainous north. She is the deputy chair of the Village Disaster Management Committee established by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the mountain village of Singhoor, and has undergone training in assessing and responding to disasters.
“I have become more aware of the importance of timely decision making on emergency response and evacuation,” she says. “When the recent floods occurred, I realized that some families who recently migrated from Upper Chitral were living near a hill torrent, at risk of flood. I was aware of how rapidly the water influx occurs, so I warned the people about floods and help evacuate them. I brought them to my home and we stayed together for a couple of hours until the flood situation got settled down.”
The damage to the migrants’ homes was minor, but Ms Tabbassum’s timely action is an important demonstration of the role that women play as key decision makers in emergency situations. Although traditionally, Pakistani women have often taken a backseat, it is crucial to acknowledge the emerging understanding that women are also stakeholders, and have the agency to take lifesaving action.
Singhoor village is part of UNDP Pakistan’s Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in Pakistan Project, which strengthens government disaster management, develops community resilience, and provides technical assistance in developing building codes.
Across Pakistan, communities struggle with the threats posed by the environment in which they live, from drought to flood, to devastating earthquakes. As the world’s climate changes, Pakistan is expected to be severely affected – in the past ten years alone, natural and socio-political disasters have taken 80,000 lives, and affected 50 million people.
UNDP helps the Government and communities prepare for these threats. With UNDP’s assistance, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has established an implementation unit to monitor and coordinate the National Disaster Management Plan and to mobilize resources from international development partners. UNDP also helped run the National Institute for Disaster Management, and developed monitoring and communications channels for glacial lake outburst floods and monsoon flooding.
A community-based disaster risk management process was piloted in 30 communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh provinces. With UNDP assistance, communities mapped risks and planned preparedness and response, and were developed into local emergency response forces. Led by trained, dedicated and resourceful women and men such as Fauzia Tabbassum, these village committees are active leaders in protecting their communities when disaster strikes.