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Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) celebrates Disaster Risk Reduction Week across Pakistan

Known for its scenic beauty, the mountainous regions of northern Pakistan are a popular tourist attraction. Apart from picturesque landscapes that meet the eye, what often goes unnoticed is that these valleys are extremely vulnerable to climate change and are categorized as one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world. Over the past few years, the high frequency of natural disasters across Pakistan – and particularly in northern Pakistan – has displaced thousands of innocent lives and has caused severe economic loss impacting public and private infrastructure and livelihoods.

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Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) celebrates Disaster Risk Reduction Week across Pakistan

The remnants of the Kashmir earthquake on 8th October 2005 are a strong reminder of the high disaster risk vulnerability of valleys in northern Pakistan. Claimed as the most devastating earthquake in the recent history of Pakistan, this earthquake killed more than 73,000 people, injured over 69,000 people, left 2.8 million people displaced from their homes and destroying 450,000 buildings. The aftermath of this traumatizing earthquake led the Government of Pakistan to declare 8th October as the National Day for Disaster Reduction and commit to improving the disaster risk vulnerability of communities in Pakistan. It is also pertinent to note that the United Nations’ General Assembly has declared 13th October as the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

To stress the criticality of disaster risk reduction associated with these national and international days, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is celebrating the Disaster Risk Reduction Week across Pakistan from 8th to 14th October. An affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), AKAH has successfully led community driven humanitarian initiatives to save innocent lives and infrastructure, particularly for communities living in the rural mountainous areas in Pakistan since 1998. Over two decades, AKAH has designed disaster risk plans and formed community-led organizations in over 750 rural and urban settlements to help them prepare and adapt against disasters and respond independently in the event of a disaster.

Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) celebrates Disaster Risk Reduction Week across Pakistan

Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) celebrates Disaster Risk Reduction Week across Pakistan

This year AKAH’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Week features multiple activities including raising awareness for students ranging from schools, colleges and universities across Pakistan on how to prepare against disasters through seminars, speech competitions and transect walks. Asadullah, a high school student in Gilgit explains,

Through the simulation for earthquake safety organized by AKAH in our school, I have learned that the initial 60 seconds are crucial after a disaster. Hence, rather than panicking, we should take cover and follow the steps taught in the stimulation to save our lives”.

The scenario-based drills are not only limited to educational institutions but also conducted in other rural and urban areas across Pakistan. During the DRR Week, these drills focus on communities, especially women and children, to increase their knowledge about disasters and enhance their capacities to respond effectively in disaster situations.

In addition, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is also engaging actively with government authorities to strengthen institutional liaising for better-coordinated response in events of disasters. In this regard, AKAH has trained over 1,000 representatives from government authorities, and over 40,000 community volunteers on effective disaster risk management.

The celebrations during the DRR Week reflect the harsh reality that mountain communities in northern Pakistan in particular, and all areas of the country in general, are exposed to a high frequency of natural hazards. On the other hand, the DRR Week reaffirms in raising awareness that losses from such disasters can be minimized if we are collectively well prepared against tackling the natural disaster.

Chitral

Water for well-being in Chitral’s Broghil Valley – AKAH Pakistan

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Broghil Women - AKAH Pakistan
Broghil women showcasing their woolen products for sale at a local festival. Photo: AKAH Pakistan

Broghil valley is home to more than 200 families, located around 260 kilometers from Chitral, the district headquarters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Broghil valley lies at the border area and so is known for its remoteness, and limited accessibility through unpaved, vulnerable roads. Home to green fields, mountains, glaciers, and more than thirty alpine lakes, this valley has great tourism potential.

However, the lack of paved roads; harsh weather; snow for over eight months of the year; and a lack of water and electricity services are a few of the many challenges the valley’s inhabitants and visitors face.

Women and children must travel long distances to fetch water from rivers and streams. Not only does this result in lost time and labor but often the water is unclean, causing waterborne diseases.

Broghil Man - AKAH Pakistan
Mohammad Aziz, Member Water & Sanitation Committee, Garel, Broghil

“ A few months back, we did not have clean water to use. The women had to fetch it from
rivers in drums and jerry cans. This was done even when there were four to five feet of snow for eight months in winters. Also, the water was unsafe as it was contaminated by both humans and animals”.

Mohammad Aziz, Member Water & Sanitation Committee, Garel,
Broghil

Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), Pakistan, with the mandate to improve human habitat across vulnerable areas, addressed this issue under its Water and Sanitation Extension Programme (WASEP).

Women are able to make these products using the time saved no longer having to fetch water from the river. experience and technical expertise, identified safe water sources; tested water quality against WHO standards; constructed water and sanitation infrastructure with community involvement and provided every household a water tap in their home.

Broghil Kid - AKAH Pakistan

With support from Pakistan Afghanistan Tajikistan Regional Integration Program (PATRIP) Foundation, local authorities and the community, AKAH completed water supply schemes in nine villages in Broghil, providing more than 200 households with year-round access to clean water at their doorsteps.

These households now have water in washrooms, improved hygiene conditions and a reduced incidence of waterborne disease. Women, in particular, are able to spend more quality time with their families and have more time for income-generating activities such as woolen handicrafts.

By providing safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure, AKAH has helped improve the health and well-being of more than 2,000 people in Broghil.

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7 Photo-stories on World Water Day 2020 from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral (GBC)

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AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
AKAH Pakistan

World Water Day is celebrated every year on 22nd March as an observance day to highlight the importance of freshwater. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

As part of the World Water Day 2020 celebrations, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) shares these stories of people from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral whose lives have been deeply impacted by water and sanitation-related projects in the region.

AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Over half of the people across Pakistan lack access to safe and clean water and have no choice but to consume water from whatever source exists in their villages, regardless of quality. Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, aiming to improve quality of life, is implementing water supply schemes across mountain communities in Pakistan.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
In mountainous parts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, traditional wells are used as water reservoirs collecting the water coming from streams through canals. This water, coming directly from open sources, is unsafe as it is contaminated due to its exposure to both humans and animals. Without access to another source of water, people use this unsafe water for different purposes including drinking, cooking, and other domestic purposes.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Clean drinking water has always been a huge problem for communities living in mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. Women and children are impacted the most as they must travel long distances to fetch water for cooking, washing, and laundry. AKAH’s work to connect each household to safe and clean with a water tap in their home enables women to keep their children safe from waterborne diseases, spend more quality time with their families, and also reduces time and labor lost to fetching water.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), with the help of communities, identifies water sources in the village, tests the water quality using its technical expertise, develops water infrastructure, constructs water reservoirs, and provides each family with a water tap in their home. More than 500,000 people across Pakistan now have access to safe drinking water in their homes, through AKAH’s efforts.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s WASEP model uses a community-based approach to help mountain communities get year-round all-season access to safe water. AKAH’s approach uses deep digging and other techniques to ensure that water does not freeze in the pipes despite the fact that these villages are covered in snow for more than five months of the year.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
“I enjoy taking freshwater from this tap in my home; you would say I am in love with it that’s why I stand here many times a day”.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, with its mandate to improve quality of life, is helping women and young girls across Pakistan enjoy a healthy life, by providing access to safe water in their homes, reducing their exposure to water-borne diseases, allowing them to spend more quality time with families.
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