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Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and World Food Programme (WFP) work to build capacity in disaster preparedness and response

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AKAH and WFP seminar in Islamabad

Islamabad, June 27, 2018 (PR): The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Emergency Department of Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) previously Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) Pakistan organized a Knowledge and Experience Sharing seminar today on effective disaster preparedness and response at the Ramada Hotel, Islamabad.

Over 150 participants attended the seminar, representing the National and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities, Department of Education, UN agencies, agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), humanitarian aid organizations, district administration, teachers, students and community members.

AKAH and WFP seminar in Islamabad

Cristiano Mandra, Senior Disaster Risk Management/Resilience Advisor, WFP Pakistan, acknowledged the successful partnership between FOCUS and UNWFP: “Pakistan has suffered from consecutive natural disasters and emergencies in the recent past, including devastating earthquakes and flooding, which has caused the loss to life and property. These losses can be minimized by educating people on disaster risk management and disaster response strategies.”

The initiative is part of the WFP-funded programmes on Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) and School Safety for six hazard prone districts in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. Almost 6,000 community members and 22,000 school children have been sensitized on disaster risks.  They also benefitted from enhanced knowledge and skills on effective disaster preparedness and response, which includes assessment and identification of local hazards, basic search and rescue, basic first aid, and creation of disaster risk management plans at school and village levels. The programmes have covered over 120 schools across Sindh, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including physical infrastructure improvements in some schools.

Nawab Ali Khan - CEO AKAH Pakistan

Nawab Ali Khan, CEO, AKAH Pakistan.

Highlighting that Pakistan is a disaster-prone country, Raheela Saad, a member of NDMA, emphasized that the public, private and civil society sectors need to work together in order to reduce the vulnerability of communities against disasters. “We will remain committed to provide leadership and strategic guidance on disaster preparedness and response initiatives across Pakistan,” she said.

Speaking about the project’s success to the participants, the Chief Executive Officer of AKAH Pakistan, Mr. Nawab Ali Khan, said, “Improving the disaster risk resilience and the overall quality of life of communities living in vulnerable and disaster-prone areas is one of the key mandates of AKDN.”

In the long run, initiatives on CBDRM and School Safety will contribute to the mission of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and protect vulnerable populations from induced hazards and other disasters.

Notes:

Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH):

To address the increasing threat posed by natural disasters and climate change, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) works to ensure that poor people live in physical settings that are as safe as possible from the effects of natural disasters; that residents who do live in high-risk areas are able to cope with disasters in terms of preparedness and response; and that these settings provide access to social and financial services that lead to greater opportunity and a better quality of life.

Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN):

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of non-denominational development agencies, created by His Highness the Aga Khan, with complementary mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalization of historic cities. As a contemporary endeavor of the Ismaili Imamat to realize the social conscience of Islam through institutional action, the AKDN agencies work to improve living conditions and opportunities for the poor, without regard to their faith, origin or gender. Working in the fields of economic, cultural and social development, AKDN aims to provide choices and opportunities to communities so that they can realize and determine their own development.

Opinion

The League is dead, long live the United Nations

Justice Retired Muzaffar Ali

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united nations general assembly
UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Our world has witnessed thousands of wars throughout human history but World War I is described as the war that will end all wars. By the time it ended, more than 16 million men, women, children, and soldiers were dead. The League of Nations was established with the aim to prevent a repeat of such a calamitous war. However, the League of Nations neither managed to prevent invasion by Japan on Manchuria nor could stop the annexation of Ethiopia by Italy, or that of Austria by Adolf Hitler. Its powerlessness caused its demise in the year 1946. Lord Cecil closed the assembly with the last words “The league is dead, long live United Nations.”

 Nazi Hitler, fascist Mussolini caused WWII, the same end in the year 1945. America used the atomic bomb against Japan, destroyed two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and got the title of first and last country to use atomic bomb in human history. The world leaders again think of a global forum. UNO was established. Its charter gives a mandate to the Security Council to prevent “aggressions” either through peaceful means or by using force.

The Security Council has five big countries as permanent members vested with veto power. America is a “pivot man” in. The primary role of the Security Council is to settle issues among countries, which might be a “threat” to world peace and security. UNO, under its security council, solved many issues. Alas! Kashmir and Palestine issues since 1948 remain unsolved agenda on the table of the Security Council.

On Kashmir, both India and Pakistan are claimants. India entered its army into, with the plea that maharaja Kashmir has made a “succession deed” with. Pakistan claimed over Kashmir as 98% of the Muslim population has chosen Pakistan. Both faced armed conflicts over Kashmir. Indian PM Nehru went to the UNO seeking its help. Pakistan also agreed on role of UNO in settling the issue.

Security Council probed into the issue, passed eleven resolutions. Conclusions drawn as (a) armed conflicts in Kashmir are a real threat to “world peace and security”. (b) Rejected respective claims of both countries, (c) accepted the right of self determinations of Kashmiris. (d) Both the conflicting countries waived their respective claims and conceded a plebiscite under the auspices of the UN.

Security Council failed in the implementation of its resolutions on Kashmir, since 1948. India introduced article 370 to its constitution, gave a special status in reference to the so-called “instrument of accession by maharaja”. This article was also in violation of the Security Council’s resolutions.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with “Hindutva” ideology is established in India on the pattern of Nazism of Hitler. Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (a wing of RSS) in government. He has thrown Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. He deleted article 370, discarded the so-called “accession instrument”, turned Kashmir into a big jail. Imposed longest curfew. He himself went to America. America received Modi as a Victor. Trump joined a public audience arranged by Modi, raising his hand in hand with Modi lauded “great people of India and America are fighting against Islamic extremist terrorism.”

What prevents Modi, from genocide and kidnapping Kashmiris and from violation of conclusions in the security council resolutions, when the top “pivot man” of Security council welcomes him, closing the eyes towards the aggression by Modi? While it was required to suspend the membership of India in UNO and disallowed Narendra Modi to attend the annual meeting for his barbaric activities, atrocities as an aggressor in Jammu & Kashmir state.

MR. Khan, the premier of Pakistan, well defined Islam as a religion of peace and as “Islam is one”. These terrorist groups, unguided and ignorant Muslims were given birth to, by America initially, do not represent Islam. Muslim states encountered them particularly; Pakistan has lost at least 70,000 civil and military persons. The world knows what kind of role India played except false blame against Pakistan for the intrusion of so-called terrorists into LoK just to mislead the world opinion against the indigenous liberation struggle of Kashmiris. But Donald Trump gives a pave to India by saying that “both America and India are defending their borders from Islamic terrorist”.

Trump tried to conceal his favor to India by arranging a meeting with Mr. Khan but soon disclosed. When a news correspondent asked him a question like “Mr. President Do you give equal place to an aggressor and an oppressed?” Donald Trump got confused and turned the question into a giggling atmosphere.

The world must understand “League of Nations” could not prevent Hitler, Mussolini and other dictators from their ambition to expand their territories and also failed to prevent victors of   WWI from extraordinary claims using the league in this regard consequent upon league became dead. It is also irrebuttable that, United Nations has been made by the victors of WWII and the Security Council gives permanent membership to those countries.

At present, Modi has turned the subcontinent into an active volcano and if United Nations and superpowers remain spectators then, not only the subcontinent but the entire world might face its burst as Modi could attack even control line with the pretext of terrorism as Trump has given him the license. If the subcontinent is caught by the fire of war, the world order could be changed and the UN might lose its mandate and history could be revised with the word “United Nations Organization is dead” as lord Cecil once said, “The League of Nation is dead”.

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Environment

A journey of Hope – Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) in Pakistan

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AKAH Pakistan

In millions of years of mankind’s history on planet earth, the human habitat has never been such vulnerable as it is today.  With the changing climatic conditions, natural disasters continue to worsen the quality of life of millions of people globally especially in the underdeveloped and developing countries that in many cases has the least to do with the cause of climate change.

The world war II’s industrial revolution brought prosperity particularly to the industrial world and the rest in general however soon mankind started realizing that the model of growth chosen for this prosperity had major flaws in it and was causing damages to the very existence of the planet itself by causing global warming. Today the world has become a more unsafe place not only for human beings alone but all kinds of living species and their habitats.

Pakistan is amongst the top 10 countries that receive the worst impacts of climate change whereas its contribution to the Green House Gas Emissions is less than one percent of the total global emissions. Heavy rain, increasing glacial melt, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods and avalanches are becoming a permanent phenomenon. Over a decade almost every year, Pakistan has faced medium to large scale flood situations. 2010 and 2015 being the worst years when millions of people became homeless. Billions worth of properties were lost worsening the already fragile economy of the country and increasing poverty.

This situation is forcing people to migrate from areas where they lived for generations. Climate refugees are increasing, people moving from rural areas to urban centers ending up living in slums, escaping one hazard and entering another.

AKAH Pakistan
AKAHs’ Early Warning System (EWS), installed in Sherqilla, Ghizer, is helping communities to evacuate to safer places in critical weather, through transmitting data and information for developing daily base weather alerts.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) has the mandate to help communities create a safe and resilient human habitat with improved services where communities could see a future for themselves. AKAH has a major focus on programs related to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Under adaptation, Habitat planning is a key activity where the agency, through hazard risk vulnerability assessments (HVRAs), identifies safe locations in its program areas as living zones. So far it has assessed about 800 settlements in Pakistan, majority in the mountain areas of Northern Pakistan, and has identified areas that are exposed to single or multiple natural hazards and areas that are safer from natural disasters.

AKAH through its community-based disaster management programs, using these maps, educates communities to build in safer areas and uses at-risk areas for community forestry or agriculture purposes that in some cases will work as a mitigation measure. It has identified several settlements where a major part of the settlement and population are exposed to high risk and there is hardly any safe space available. AKAH is working with the communities on options for relocation of these communities to safer areas with future growth opportunities.

As a first case, 50 such communities have been identified from the mountain communities of Northern Pakistan. AKAH intends to work with the local governments, civil society and communities to invest in services infrastructure in the safer zones creating areas of opportunities for the at-risk population. Areas that are exposed to low and medium risk AKAH build mitigation infrastructure mainly against floods, debris flow, and river erosion.

AKAH is working currently on a test project to reduce the risk of a snow avalanche. Over the past three years, it worked with about 100 communities to build mitigation infrastructure and make settlements safer. AKAH also works with hundreds of communities throughout Pakistan to build their coping capacities in disaster situations by awareness-raising, development of community emergency response teams (CERT), the establishment of stockpiles, training of search and rescue teams (SART), community based and mechanized early warning systems and establishing fail-safe communications with isolated communities.

The CERTs are the first responders in any disaster situations and have responded to hundreds of emergency situations saving thousands of lives. In 2017 in an event of floods in the Ishkoman valley triggered by a GLOF event from Badswat glacier upon early warning the CERTS evacuated 200 houses and within 12 hours the flood-hit over 40 houses, but no life was lost. There are dozens of such stories where the CERTS saved lives.

AKAH Pakistan
Mountain communities using portable solar panels provided by AKAH to generate light and overcome power outage issues.

AKAH under its school safety program has worked with over 1000 schools throughout the country and has educated hundreds of teachers and thousands of students on the approaches of disaster risk reduction.

The mountain communities of Northern Pakistan are highly dependent on the natural forest which is only 9% of the total land area. Studies show that 95% of households in Gilgit-Baltistan use timber as main material for housing constructions. On average six to eight matured trees are used for each new house and approximately over 3,000 new housing units are built each year. Similarly, 86% of households use biomass as fuel for heating and cooking. This situation is causing a great pressure on the already scarce forest resources.

AKAH under its Building and Construction Improvement Program, through action research, developed over 60 different housing improvement solutions around thermal efficiency and improved cookstoves that reduce the fuelwood consumption by up to 60%. It also introduced innovative solutions for the reinforcement of walls reducing the use of timber. Over 100,000 BACIP products have been installed in over 40,000 houses benefitting slightly less than half a million people of the mountain communities. In the last two years over 1000 homes were provided access to solar products for lighting purposes.

The efficient management of water resources is a key international issue of climate change. AKAH through its Water and Sanitation Extension Program (WASEP) successfully demonstrated a community-based water management system for the mountain communities. Through its six components program (infrastructure, operation and maintenance, community endowment, health and hygiene, and water quality system) it provides a package solution to the community for the provision of clean drinking water around the year. So far WASEP has reached 600 communities benefiting over half a million people by providing WHO standard clean drinking water. The schemes are owned, operated and maintained by the communities.    

Climate-resilient construction is a key consideration under AKAH’s building construction program. AKAH adopts climate-friendly designs for the development of AKDN’s construction projects. The recently completed Bamyan Hospital in Afghanistan covers 60% of its total energy requirement from solar power. AKAH has so far constructed over 1.3M sft of buildings where climate-friendly and seismic-resistant design principles have been adopted.

AKAH won several international awards including the Ashden Award, UN Habitat Award, Aluminum Canada award and the British Social Housing Foundation Award. AKAH has, directly and indirectly, benefit millions of people through its programs and approaches which are being replicated at the regional level in similar geographies.

Commenting on the success of AKAH the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Nawab Ali Khan said

“The successes of AKAH are a result of its community-centric approach and the strong partnerships with the government, donors and other national and international partners. AKAH believes that through partnerships and synergies with government and other partners, the community being at the center, a better habitat can be created where life is safe, and communities see a future for themselves. Our partnerships bring hope and we see a spark in the eyes of people.”  

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