WFP helps Pakistan prepare for natural disasters
MUZAFFARGARH: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) handed over on Thursday the first humanitarian response facility (HRF) located in Rakh Khanpur village here to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
This facility is part of a network of eight such compounds being developed by the WFP as a joint endeavour with the Pakistan government in all provinces at “the most disaster-prone strategic locations”, as per WFP officials.
The officials elaborated that the seven-acre warehouse at Muzaffargarh would serve as a logistics base for south Punjab in case of any disaster. A second such facility is currently under construction in Lahore for northern part of the country.
They said locations for all the facilities were selected on the basis of damage done by previous natural disasters, population centres and to enhance emergency preparedness and response capabilities of relief providers.
“The purpose of this $3.3 million project being managed by the WFP is to pre-position relief supplies and strengthen the country’s emergency response capacity keeping in mind Pakistan’s long history of natural disasters. The project is being implemented in collaboration with several stakeholders: donors, international NGOs and national and provincial disaster management authorities. Generous funds for the project have been provided by the governments of Japan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and the US for which I’m extremely grateful to them,” said Lola Castro, country director of the WFP Pakistan.
Ms Castro went on to say that she hoped these facilities would be put to the best use. The next facility in this network would be launched in Quetta, followed by Lahore, Peshawar, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit-Baltistan, she announced.
“These facilities are more than just structures. They are centres for coordination that will be useful for even future generations for disaster preparedness, response and management,” she added.
The launched facility will be utilised by the district government, whose head (district coordination officer) Farasat Iqbal remarked: “These HRFs will change the paradigm of disaster management and this one in Muzaffargarh will become a regional hub for disaster relief.”
Japanese Embassy Consular Isami Takada said it was now time for the NDMA to work hard and make this facility work. He hoped the next one “speeds up and catches up with this one”. He said Japan and Pakistan have had strong ties and both help each other in times of distress, mentioning how Pakistan assisted Japan during the March 2011 tsunami.
NDMA Chairman Maj Gen Saeed Alam was quite optimistic about the project. “Top quality work has been executed in a record time of seven months. Such facilities go a long way in ensuring preparedness thanks to the enduring contributions by our donors and WFP,” he said.
Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Director General retired Capt Muhammad Asif said: “This facility would have taken years if it was up to the government to make it with modern gadgets, equipment and quality. This is the result of collaboration and willingness of all involved, especially the DCO who has always been helpful. This facility is a message for the people of Muzaffargarh and Pakistan in general that when it comes to disasters, political dimensions, borders, colour of skin, dress, food, beliefs or religion become irrelevant. We have to stand united regardless of all these. The message behind this elaborate project is that we as human beings understand sufferings of fellow humans and the entire humanity stands with you. This is meant for the poorest of the poor.”
According to documents, Muzaffargarh warehouse has a capacity of 3,000MT for general storage items, a 200MT climate-controlled warehouse for temperature-sensitive items, solar/alternative power, seismic resistant structure considering environmental hazards.