SDC supporting Pakistan’s disaster resilience efforts

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Maria Daud works as a project manager in the fields of food security and disaster risk reduction for the Pakistan programme at Malteser International, an NGO that is supported by the SDC. She shared her experience at the SDC’s 2015 Annual Conference of Swiss Humanitarian Aid in Bern

How do you explain the concept of disaster risk reduction?

Disaster risk reduction reduces the vulnerability of communities in areas prone to disasters. Two approaches are central: capacity building and mitigation.

Disaster risk reduction seeks to enable communities to increase their capacity to cope with disasters and mitigate the outcomes. At the same time, disaster risk reduction also means preparedness. When people are prepared, the outcomes of disasters can be limited.

In which areas of Pakistan is the need for disaster risk reduction greatest, and why?

Pakistan’s topography is diverse – there are mountains, deserts, rivers, big cities – and so is the range of potential disasters. The country experiences avalanches, landslides, floods and earthquakes.

In the north of Pakistan the dangers are avalanches, heavy rain and snowfall, and flash floods. The latter are disastrous, because people don’t have time to escape. A flash flood can wash away a community within minutes.

The parts of Pakistan that are not high above sea-level are prone to floods. Heavy snowfall in northern Pakistan often results in floods in the south.

Pakistan also has desert areas in which there are annual droughts. A problem linked to this is malnutrition, which especially affects children. Different projects are needed for the different regions in Pakistan and the different threats.

You work for the Malteser International Pakistan programme. What are the organisation’s activities in terms of disaster risk reduction?

The Malteser International Pakistan programme has been active in Pakistan since 2006. It has its own disaster risk reduction strategy, which is community-based.

The central point is that communities are responsible for reducing the risk of disaster and for delivering first aid in event of disaster. Through the programme, groups of locals receive training so they build up skills in search and rescue, firefighting and first aid.

Moreover, the programme engages in livelihood activities to strengthen the communities. We build roads to markets, for example.

Can you explain how the SDC supports the Malteser International Pakistan programme in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction?

The SDC supports a project in the Chail valley in north-western Pakistan. Within the project, locals reforest steep slopes in the valley and erect barriers to protect against landslides.

The SDC’s support mainly consists of funding and expertise. For example the training for the locals was possible thanks to the SDC’s support. Another benefit of the cooperation with the SDC is the technical expertise. Swiss engineers visited sites in Pakistan and provided input to local engineers.

Together with the United Nations World Food Programme, the SDC also has also provided support in the administrative part of the project.

What projects implemented by the Maltester programme does the SDC support?

Currently, the project in the Chail valley in Pakistan is the only project supported by the SDC. There are plans for other projects in collaboration with the SDC, similar to the one mentioned.

Maria Daud was born in 1980 and got her master’s degree in economics at the University of Peshawar in Pakistan. Before she joined the NGO Malteser International in Pakistan, she worked as a district livelihoods officer for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.