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Refugees International is glad to see that the U.S. will dramatically increase its aid to Pakistan to $150 million. Given the gravity of the situation, it is vital that more money be channeled into protecting the displaced and the other flood-affected victims.
According the UN, the flooding has affected 14 million people, destroyed or damaged nearly 900,000 homes and left tens of millions of people displaced. Many families have been separated in the ensuing chaos. Aid agencies need to increase assistance and put in place better measures to help people find family members, especially children.
In addition, planning needs to be undertaken now to prevent land grabs and land-related conflict when the flood waters recede. The floods have washed away land demarcations, making it difficult to establish ownership, and there are reports of disputes already having erupted. Systems need to be put in place to protect the poor and other marginalized groups that do not have access to land records and legal institutions, or who lack adequate protection under existing laws.
Special consideration should also be given to the two million Afghan refugees currently residing in Pakistan. According to UNHCR, many of the Afghan refugee settlement areas have been inundated by the flooding, including three sites that were 80 to 90 percent destroyed. Temporary shelter and assistance is being given to these people, but there needs to be a long term plan made for where they will now live and how they can earn their living. Their tenuous status within the country gives rise to the risk that they will be forced to return to Afghanistan where their security is threatened. The Pakistani government must ensure their protection, and allow them to remain in Pakistan until they voluntarily return to their homes in Afghanistan.
Finally, there needs to be a greater focus on disaster risk reduction and preparedness going forward, especially in light of Pakistan’s vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change. Pakistani authorities have already acknowledged that they were not properly prepared for the disaster, and had proper flood monitoring systems been in place, many lives could have been saved. In addition, priority needs to be given to adaptation programs aimed at increasing the resiliency of vulnerable populations to future floods, droughts, and storms. Ramping up funding now to help vulnerable populations prepare for disasters before they strike will result in substantial savings over the long term – both financial and in terms of loss of human life. At the same time, helping to build the resiliency of Pakistanis to climate change impacts would go a long way towards increasing political stability in the region. Pakistani military offensives against militants in the northwest region have displaced more than three million Pakistanis over the past several years. The flooding, which has affected many of these same areas, has displaced millions more. Helping to build the resiliency of Pakistanis to climate change would go a long way towards decreasing political instability in the region, and more importantly, minimizing human suffering.
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. www.refugeesinternational.org.
For Immediate Release: August 19, 2010
Contact: Refugees International, Gabrielle Menezes
P: 202-828-0110 x225/ 240-486-3011