GENEVA, 7 October
- UN Disaster Risk Reduction Chief, Margareta Wahlström, met today for the first time with Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zadari, to discuss how Pakistan responds to “the new normal” in dealing with floods which have inundated the country for two successive years.
President Zadari agreed to step up efforts to improve early warning in his country. “Pakistan wants to be safe, resilient and able to respond to any type of disaster. We want to take ownership of disaster risk reduction and to empower our people to be able to respond to the risks and threats posed by natural hazards,” he said.
President Zadari added that he would personally "champion the process of disaster risk reduction."
Welcoming President Zadari's statement, Wahlström said, "Pakistan is committed to taking the necessary measures to have better disaster management mechanisms in place. The first priority in the short-term is to strengthen the early warning and preparedness capacity at provincial and district level. And while there is a fairly competent hydro meteorological system in place in Pakistan, preparedness programmes are not in place to ensure timely and adequate responses.
"Early warning systems work when people are educated about how to respond to them. Global risk is best reduced at local level. This is the only way to minimize losses and save more lives."
A parliamentary Committee established to oversee the floods in Sindh, one of the worst affected regions in Pakistan, is a good step Wahlström said as she acknowledged the efforts that have been made at national level since her last visit in February.
The UNISDR Chief said that good lessons could be learned from other nations in the region who had to contend with disasters on a similar scale. She also promised that the UN would be prepared to assist with the training of officials at local level to improve flood management.
The United Nations Central Emergency Fund has allocated $17.5 million for urgent assistance to five million families affected by the current floods. The Pakistan Floods 2011 Rapid Response Plan which has asked for $357 million is only 15% funded and the UN allocation is the single largest contribution so far.
Pakistan has now been suffering from severe flooding for two years in a row. In 2010, floods claimed 2,000 lives and affected 18 million people, leaving 11 million people homeless. This year more than 400 people have lost their lives and according to medical experts more than 2 million others are suffering from flood-related diseases.