Pakistan floods demonstrate that commitments made six years ago to save lives have not been met

By Oxfam

Commitments that were made by governments in 2005 to ensure that people are better prepared for disasters in Pakistan have fallen short and will not be met by the deadline of 2015, international humanitarian organization Oxfam said today as the country marked the six year anniversary of the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan Administered Kashmir. 

In 2005, 168 governments agreed to adopt a ten-year plan known as the Hyogo Framework for Action, which commits to strengthen people’s resilience to disasters. As the floods in Pakistan continue, Oxfam said that more needed to be done to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action to ensure that the country was better prepared for disasters.

The failure to invest more in disaster prevention in Pakistan has meant people are less able to cope with the devastating impact of natural disasters such as this year’s floods. Oxfam called on the Pakistan government and donors to respond to the dire humanitarian needs now and also invest in disaster prevention measures to ensure that this year’s crisis is not repeated. The donor response to this year’s floods has been poor – and there is a risk of the aid effort running out of resources in a few weeks unless donors immediately step up their efforts.

"Everyone is aware of how disasters have taken their toll in Pakistan and how they are continuing to put people at the brink of desperation. Until we start preparing for these events and having systems in place to cope in an effective and properly invested way, the vicious circle of suffering will continue to affect millions," said Neva Khan, Country Director of Oxfam in Pakistan.

Oxfam said there were concrete examples of how lives had been saved through disaster prevention. For example, after the earthquake of 2005 in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, Oxfam built retaining walls in areas that were close to a river and when the area was hit by flooding in 2010, these walls saved over 1500 people. This also meant that people had time to evacuate with their belongings over a period of three days. Also, in 2010, more than 200,000 people were evacuated by rescue boats with the help of Oxfam and its partners as flood waters rose in different parts of the country.

Oxfam called on the government to take urgent steps to implement the framework. The organization urged the government to ensure early warning systems are placed throughout the country and that vulnerable communities have the means to prepare themselves for disasters – for example, by building houses on raised platforms or constructing barriers to prevent the spread of flood water. Oxfam said that such measures would save lives and money in the long term.

"Pakistan is highly disaster-prone, with two major disasters in the past five years alone, yet major losses are not inevitable. Excellent management policies exist to minimize the impact of disasters, but they are not being implemented on the ground, and during the floods huge gaps became apparent. This is not good enough, and it undermines efforts to help the economy to grow, to minimize food insecurity, and to improve social and political stability," said Khan.

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