Oxfam: One year on Pakistan still unprepared for monsoon floods

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 26 Jul 2011

International aid agency Oxfam warned today that one year on from the worst flooding in its history, Pakistan is still not prepared for this year’s monsoon floods and other natural disasters.

In a new report, “Ready or Not: Pakistan’s resilience to disasters one year on from the floods”, the international agency said that millions of people were still struggling to recover from last year’s floods and would fall even deeper into poverty if hit by floods again.

The 2010 floods were the worst ever in Pakistan’s recorded history. Some 20 million people were affected – almost equivalent to the population of Australia.

Of those affected, more than 800,000 families are still without proper homes and many flood defences, such as river embankments, destroyed in last year’s floods, have not yet been properly repaired.

Reconstruction after last year’s floods is estimated to cost more than $10 billion, almost a quarter of Pakistan’s national budget, and further disasters will put an additional strain on the country’s economy.

The emergency response led by Pakistani authorities has saved thousands of lives, but Oxfam is concerned about the pace of recovery and reconstruction, which has left millions of people unnecessarily exposed to another disaster.

Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan, said: “Villagers in areas that we work fear new flooding. Many are planting fewer crops than usual as they are worried that their harvests will be destroyed in fresh floods. In some areas, where fresh flooding has already begun, families have started to dismantle their houses and move to higher ground as they are scared of losing everything again.

“Pakistan is a disaster prone country and has been flooded 67 times since 1947. Climate change will only increase the threat of floods. But while floods and earthquakes are inevitable, widespread devastation is not. For years, not enough has been done to protect ordinary Pakistani men, women and children from disasters before they strike.”

Two to five million people are likely to be affected by floods during this year’s monsoon season, according to the UN and Pakistani authorities. Hundreds of villages have already been affected and whole communities forced out of their homes by new flooding in Sindh and Punjab provinces in the past few weeks. River water levels are also rising in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Oxfam said lives and scarce resources could be saved in the future if the Pakistan government, with support from international donors, invests more in measures to reduce the impact of disasters. This could include flood resistant housing, and effective early warning systems – especially at the village level. The agency also called for more funding for local authorities and organisations that play a frontline role in preparing for and responding to emergencies.

Neva Khan said: “Pakistan needs to act now. Investing in measures today that reduce the impact of disasters is essential to save lives and safeguard development gains in the future. It will ensure schools built with aid funds are not washed away and that farmers can keep the crops they have toiled over. A year after Pakistan’s mega floods it’s time we learnt this lesson.”

Pictures and video footage are available. For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or at cheecheel@oxfam.org.au

Download the report: Ready or not: Pakistan’s resilience to disasters one year on from the floods (PDF 1.1 MB)