UNESCO mobilises to support Pakistan flood victims
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has announced that she will send a team of flood-management experts to Pakistan on 22nd August. The mission is the first to be undertaken by the Organization as part of its response to the catastrophic floods that have claimed over 1,600 lives and affected 20 million others.
UNESCO is working closely with other UN agencies and the Government of Pakistan in the massive rescue and prevention effort now underway. An inter-sectoral task force of experts, based both at Headquarters and in Islamabad and led by the Director-General, is coordinating the Organisation’s activities. A meeting of this group today outlined the measures to be taken in the immediate and longer term future, especially in science and education.
At the meeting, Irina Bokova reaffirmed that UNESCO “stands ready to provide, within the Organization’s fields of competence, all possible assistance”.
This first scientific mission will help upgrade Pakistan’s flood-management capacity, covering such areas as the use of satellite images in flood mapping and evacuation plans, state-of-the-art computer models for flood forecasting, analysis of land-slides and ground stability for refugee-relocation decision-making, and the adaptation of training materials for current local needs. The team will also set up activities to identify aquifers that could provide drinking water for flood-affected areas, in which clean water is critically needed.
The Organization is also planning to reinforce its office in Islamabad with experts from its other areas of action, notably education, who will work with other UN partners to evaluate what needs to be done to get children back into classes as quickly as possible. Early estimates indicate that 5,457 schools have been damaged, of which 4,419 are in Punjab and Sindh. At least one million school children have been affected by the floods, most schools are closed and access is extremely difficult.
Through close coordination with the United Nations and national authorities, UNESCO is preparing a range of initiatives to respond to the crisis, including projects to be submitted to the revised Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan, being prepared by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The six World Heritage sites in Pakistan are considered not to be in any immediate danger. However, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre is closely monitoring the situation, especially at the 4,500 year-old Archaeological Ruins of Moenjodaro, located on the right bank of the Indus River some 400 kilometres from Karachi, in Sindh Province. The current stable situation of the property is largely due to five enormous spurs that extend into the flood plain, which were constructed during the UNESCO Safeguarding Campaign to protect the site from the floods of the Indus. The World Heritage Centre is planning an expert mission to Pakistan as soon as the situation permits.
The International Safeguarding Campaign of the Moenjodaro site, which lasted until 1997 and mobilized around US $ 23 million, enabled large scale conservation measures aimed at protecting the site from flooding, the building of national capacity and the installation of a conservation and monitoring laboratory. It is one of many successful activities between UNESCO and Pakistan, which joined the Organization in 1949.
UNESCO also cooperates with Pakistan within the E-9 Initiative, a commitment by nine high-population countries to reach the Education for All (EFA) goals. In addition, Pakistan is currently involved in a variety of science projects related to freshwater, biodiversity, earth sciences, oceans, gender issues and poverty reduction. In 2006, the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) with the support of UNESCO instituted the annual Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award, recognizing notable contributions to press freedom in the country.
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