Pakistan has faced exceptionally heavy rainfall this year, a situation that has led to major flooding across the country, causing deaths and catastrophic damage. The southern province of Balochistan has been hit particularly hard. We spoke with Moin Khan, Former Logistics Response Director with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS), about efforts to coordinate humanitarian aid across the region.
Flash floods and landslides
The heavy rains started in late June, the start of the traditional monsoon season. However, the country quickly saw a 60% increase in its total monsoon rainfall in just three weeks, leading to flash floods and landslides in many regions. Although the effects of heavy rain have historically been confined to the southern Punjab region, this period of severe weather has now affected the whole country.
“This has disrupted life for people all over Pakistan,” said Moin. “We did not expect it would get this bad.”
Initially the government’s response was to rely on local NGOs to provide relief to affected areas. “Some provinces were better prepared than others. It became clear to us that Balochistan needed extra help.”
One of the major challenges the PRCS and other humanitarian actors faced with moving supplies across the region were the damaged roads. The rainfall had brought about major flooding and landslides, which caused extreme damage to the country’s road network.
“These are in a bad state of repair, and bridges are down, so moving across these has made it difficult to reach affected areas. This has also been making it difficult to reach the camps across the area, which are spread out,” said Moin. “We have to consider safety too.”
Whilst the region’s largest city Quetta hosts a Humanitarian Response Facility, or logistics supply warehouse, the challenge for Moin and his team was to quickly and effectively distribute food and basic necessities via the dangerous road networks.
“We started to use lighter loads on trucks. This helped us to move supplies around the region easier.”
Welcoming international aid
The Pakistani government launched an official humanitarian aid appeal on 5 August, inviting international NGOs to enter the country and provide relief assistance to the population. Responding organisations included Islamic Relief and Muslim Hands amongst others.
This decision by the government also meant that these organisations could move relief goods and supplies around the country without the need for permits and NoC, easing the provision of aid to affected areas.
Moin said that the government’s decision to make exceptions for these NGOs was a profound one. Working with both local and international NGOs allowed him and his team to manage a quick response.
“When international NGOs were invited into Pakistan, the Government of Baluchistan offered our storage and warehouse spaces for them to use. Although the challenge is still there to move supplies from Quetta to the smaller local hubs, they are able to go in and help. Which is good!”
An ongoing situation
Recent World Food Programme statistics state that this bout of adverse weather has impacted 1,087,654 people across four provinces, with 649 people dead and 1,030 injured. Nearly 30,000 households are in need of immediate food and shelter.
Whilst the rains are expected to ease later in August, aid and assistance is still needed in the affected areas. The small central team that Moin manages at the PRCS operates at both a local and national level, with a network of disaster management leads in each district.
“This means we can more easily control the whole situation,” says Moin. The PRCS are planning to continue supporting affected areas with priority hygiene care, and helping international NGO operations on the ground by providing expert local area information.
Find more information about the relief effort by visiting PDMA Balochistan for general updates and local needs for food and water. The site is updated in real time and, along with the phone line, is linked to the 24/7 control room.
Prior to joining the PRCS, Moin Khan spent time in the Pakistan military and airforce, helping with commercial logistics. Alongside working on local responses, he has supported neighbouring countries with disaster management logistics. You can contact Moin directly to find out more through our Member Zone.