The Swat district is one of the areas in Pakistan which is most prone to natural disasters and manmade crises. To make matters worse, Malteser International’s team, which has been working in the region since 2009, has observed serious epidemiological threats, especially outbreaks of acute diarrhoea or measles. The response to such health-related risks depends on the preparedness of the health system in place. Malteser International’s current project on disaster preparedness aims at strengthening the coping capacities of the local health system as well as of local communities – knowing that the next disaster might happen sooner than expected.
Such capacity building essentially consists of trainings. Currently, two groups of persons are being trained: government officials and health workers. Government officials of the district health authority receive training in general concepts of disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction. They will map the health-related risks in their area and develop emergency plans. Finally, such information will be integrated into disaster response plans at district and province levels.
The staff members of different health facilities will be trained in disaster preparedness. Besides the basic concepts, they learn how to prepare and equip their facility for disasters and how to respond to events with mass casualties. They will also feed the disease early warning system on major health risks with data on communicable diseases, for instance. Lady health visitors – female health professionals working exclusively with female patients – will play an important role with outreach activities, linking the health facilities to the communities.
It was the worst flooding since recordkeeping in today’s Pakistan began: In July and August 2010, massive monsoon rainfall made the rivers in Pakistan swell rapidly. In the north of the country, flash floods of the mountain rivers washed away everything that was built or stored too close to the river beds: bridges and roads, houses and belongings. Mud- and landslides blocked roads and the communication infrastructure was destroyed in many locations. In the south of Pakistan, the run-off from rainfall in the mountainous north led to a wave along the Indus River which flooded vast parts of the lowland for several months, displacing hundreds of thousands people from their homesteads. Everywhere in the affected areas, people lost their income as fields were covered with mud, most of the harvest was destroyed and livestock perished. More than 20 million people were affected by the floods; 1,750 people died. The overall damage can only roughly be estimated and is unimaginably high. The reconstruction efforts will take several years – as will Malteser International’s commitment for relief activities. Our overall aim is to “build back better”: to assist the communities in improving their living conditions to an even higher level than that prior to the flood, while, at the same time, raising their resilience towards future incidents – whether they are natural or man-made disasters.
Malteser International has been working in Pakistan since the earthquake of October 2005. Its main areas of intervention have been and will remain in the sectors of health and disaster preparedness. With their long-term presence in the country, Malteser International’s teams will also be able to react quickly after new emergency situations.
|Duration:||since August 2010|
|Financing:||Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Germany), World Health Organisation, Malteser International|
|Malteser International:||Christof Ruhmich|
Dr. Shumaila Akhbar, medical doctor in the Swat Distrikt with a focus on maternal and child health.