17.09.2010 - UNESCOPRESS

UNESCO projects included in new United Nations Pakistan Flood Response Plan

Eight projects put forward by UNESCO are included in the new United Nations Pakistan Floods Emergency Response Plan launched 17 September in New York to assist the recovery of the flood-devastated country.

These projects were presented by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at an information meeting on 16 September in Paris. To be implemented over the next 12 months’ early recovery phase for a cost of US$11.2 million, they range from updating Pakistan’s early warning system for floods and locating sources of safe drinking water to reactivating education in flood-stricken areas, creating jobs linked to preservation of heritage sites and setting up mobile community radios for displaced communities.

    “These priority activities, which now require fund mobilization, are the result of a highly constructive and close engagement by UNESCO with the Government of Pakistan, civil society, the United Nations Country Team, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other partners,” explained Ms Bokova.

    The activities, she continued, “represent the breadth of UNESCO’s mandates and capacities in the fields of post-crisis management and disaster risk mitigation, across education, the sciences, culture and communication.”

    UNESCO’s projects “will reinforce nationally-owned capacity to forecast and mitigate future natural disaster risks – we think this is an extremely important aspect of our activity,” emphasized Ms Bokova, recalling that she personally witnessed the scale of devastation during her mission to Pakistan on 31 August.

    With Pakistan’s education system hard-hit after the destruction of more than 10,000 schools, UNESCO’s broad US$5.7 million proposal will initiate a holistic and inclusive recovery strategy. Building on programmes already in operation, it encompasses non-formal and secondary schooling, particularly for women and girls, and emergency education planning and management. To promote literacy, life skills and income generation, UNESCO has already reinforced 100 Adult Literacy and Skills Training Centres in the flood-affected districts, from Sindh Province in the South to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in the North.

    UNESCO’s science sector has been involved from the earliest stages of response. After the visit of a multidisciplinary scientific mission in late August, a comprehensive strategy was developed with Pakistan’s top scientific authorities. It will cover four key areas: flood hazard forecasting and management; mapping and assessment of geohazards such as landslides; mapping, development and protection of ground water resources for safe use in emergency situations; and education including technical training and awareness-raising for communities and decision makers. In the new Plan, UNESCO has included three proposals totalling US$3.6 million focused on restoring the damaged Floods Early Warning Systems, identifying landslide risks in relocation areas and locating safe water resources.

    In early October, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre will send an expert mission to Pakistan and work closely with a team from the science sector to coordinate the preservation of the Moenjodaro and Thatta World Heritage sites. A project is also being launched to provide flood victims, particularly women, with new sources of income to compensate for disrupted agricultural activities, based on training in traditional crafts and heritage conservation.

    Finally, UNESCO is developing mobile community radios to deliver life-saving information to an estimated population of 8.6 million people in 12 flood-affected districts. In addition, UNESCO will produce special programming, including call-in shows and mini-dramas, to promote psychosocial wellbeing and livelihood recovery in 20 districts. Besides recreating links among displaced communities, the mobile radio projects will provide training opportunities for young people.

    Disaster risk reduction is traditionally, and tragically, an underfunded area, stressed Ms Bokova. “Global spending on disaster preparedness is currently estimated at around four percent of the $11 billion mobilized annually on humanitarian aid globally within the United Nations and the international community in reaction to such natural disaster situations,” she said. “Whenever donors and governments have seized an opportunity to support Disaster Risk Reduction, we know that these investments can save many more future lives and reduce damage significantly. It is no exaggeration to assert that each dollar spent on prevention may result in saving up to ten dollars on recovery.”

    “We have reacted rapidly. We have mobilized our expertise. We are now ready to act,” concluded Ms Bokova.

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