22 February 2011 Pakistan is at risk of increased loss of lives, property and livelihoods in future if it fails to invest in disaster preparedness, the top United Nations official on disaster risk reduction, Margareta Wahlström, said today at the end of a five-day visit to the South Asian country.
“Pakistan cannot afford to risk its future and lives of its people by being ill-prepared,” Ms. Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, told reporters in Islamabad. “As Pakistan begins the task of rebuilding, political will is needed to halt the disaster spiral.”
Last year’s massive floods that devastated a vast swathe of the country from the north to the south is estimated to have resulted in $8.7-$10.8 billion in damage – approximately one-third of the government’s 2009-2010 budget.
Investing $27 million in disaster risk reduction mechanisms can greatly reduce losses from future disasters in Pakistan, according to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
“Now is the time to build up Pakistan’s resilience to disaster. The cost of implementing safeguards pales in comparison to the damage to lives and property,” said Neva Khan, the director in Pakistan of Oxfam, which hosted Ms. Wahlström’s visit.
Ms. Wahlström visited a flood-hit community in southern Punjab province, where she saw simple risk mitigation strategies at work, including protecting food stores from floodwater and building housing on raised platforms.
She highlighted UN mechanisms to support governments pursuing disaster risk measures, including the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which brings together thousands of disaster risk reduction experts every two years to share experiences and chart the way forward. The Platform’s next meeting is scheduled for 8-13 May in Geneva.
She noted that the Government of Pakistan has joined international initiatives to reduce disaster risk. “The immediate need is for commitment from stakeholders. Without it, hard-fought gains will be in danger when the next disaster strikes,” she said.
The chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, Nadeem Ahmed, said the real heroes of the country’s recent disasters are the millions of citizens who helped families and communities.
“Pakistan urgently needs damage mitigation strategies to lift the burden from their shoulders. Donors and the international community must ensure that resources reach those working on the ground to make disaster risk reduction a reality in Pakistan,” he added.
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