Disasters bring with them a serious disruption in the functioning of the community, which involves widespread human, material, economic and environmental losses. The importance of disaster management can be underscored by its impacts on human lives, the economy, and the country’s healthcare system. There is no denying the fact that disasters cannot be prevented entirely, but their impacts on life and capital can be mitigated. The most vulnerable to these disasters are the impoverished communities. Therefore, it is essential to mobilize all the channels to keep the system going.
For the past couple of decades, our dear country, Pakistan, has also been facing recurring natural disasters. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been able to cope with them due to several reasons efficiently. Some of those are lack of resources for such emergencies and the absence of coherent policy formulation and implementation. This can be denoted from the fact that Pakistan did not learn much from the earthquake of 2005 and floods of 2010 and allocated Rs. 363 million to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the main body which deals with disasters across the country.
The prevalence of short-term approaches to response and relief and noninvolvement of local communities are also the reasons for poor disaster management. Pakistani authorities rush to response and recovery. However, they fail to devise a long-term strategy to counter this daunting challenge.
Similarly, the lack of an effective institutional structure and the centralized power dynamics are equal contributors in this regard. Sadly, the issue of centralization is prevalent in almost all institutions. Global disaster policy frameworks promote decentralization as a prerequisite of a good disaster management strategy.
Moreover, little focus on prevention, preparedness, and capacity building is a reason for Pakistan’s poor disaster management. In a rush of response and recovery, the authorities forget to prepare for the future. Little attention is paid to the capacity building of local communities as they are the ones who suffer the most.
However, despite all these challenges, all hope is not lost yet. Various steps can be taken to manage these disasters in the future successfully. Increasing the budget spending for emergency planning and formulating agile and coherent public policy are among the foremost factors that can prove fruitful in disaster management. Empiricism is always a good idea. By learning from past experiences, Pakistan needs to devise comprehensive and well-defined policy measures to mitigate disasters’ impacts in the future. Not to forget that budget allocation is a critical component of policy devising. Therefore, sufficient grants are required to meet the needs of disaster risk aversion.
Similarly, developing resource-based capacity at the community level and focusing on long term planning for prevention and capacity building can also help in this regard. Local communities know their social settings better than any outside agency. Therefore, the focus needs to be on their capacity building so that they are able to deal with any future disasters effectively.
While partnering with the private sector can address the financial woes, collaborating with local NGOs can increase efficiency. Public-private partnership is the new norm in most of the developing nations. This model needs to be replicated in Pakistan as well because it can address the financial constraints that the government is facing. Similarly, Non-governmental organizations working in the same area have well-trained professionals who are quick to respond and increase the system’s efficiency. Therefore effectively, a collective approach needs to be taken.
Lastly, the introduction of the local government system is the key to better management of disasters. As the local governments have first-hand knowledge of the community’s social, economic, and infrastructural needs, they can be instrumental in providing support in a disaster. Pakistan can learn from some developed nations who have a Local Government Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and adopt a similar strategy. No doubt, this is a humongous task. But with a comprehensive and multilateral approach, Pakistani authorities can accomplish this feat of successfully mitigating the impacts of disasters and saving billions of rupees that we would lose otherwise.