The Pakistan floods of 2010 affected more than 18 million people, one tenth of the total population and more than the Haiti earthquake. Eight months later humanitarian needs remain unmet and there are still thousands living in camps.
The main actors involved in the response were the Government of Pakistan and the UN agencies. DFID also played a role as did many non-governmental organisations and other humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross.
The Government of Pakistan's response was commendable, but its resources and capacity were dwarfed by the scale of the damage. Local capacity and the NGO presence were greater in the north and recovery there has been much quicker than in the south of the country. Building up local capacity is important since these are the first people to respond to disasters.
The floods also overwhelmed the international system which was already stretched by the earthquake in Haiti. The UN response was patchy with poor leadership and coordination. In terms of strategic leadership, the UN needs more people capable of managing complex humanitarian responses and coordinating humanitarian agencies. In terms of coordination, there were also too many NGOs at some cluster meetings to make them effective—fewer, more experienced agencies would have improved outcomes. The UN must begin to reconsider its strategic and operational leadership. The UK has a key role to play as a catalyst for these changes since most of the Government's humanitarian aid is channelled through the UN and the EU.
The UK responded swiftly and generously to the crisis. DFID provided £134 million in humanitarian assistance and the British public donated at least £64 million directly to NGOs through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal. In addition many more Pakistanis living in the UK helped by increasing their level of remittance. We are proud of the UK's leadership.
The frequency and severity of natural disasters are predicted to increase. Along with increases in population, especially in urban centres, the number of fatalities and the extent of damage to physical infrastructure are likely to increase. The international humanitarian system needs to be more prepared for these risks. Greater attention must be paid to disaster preparedness and risk reduction. DFID must integrate this more fully into its development programmes wherever it works.