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Tele-conference on floods situation in Pakistan

In response to the floods emergency situation in Pakistan, a series of planning meetings is being conducted by UNESCO Islamabadís in-house Flood Task Force. Director, UNESCO Islamabad, is directly chairing that committee. In connection with this planning phase for emergency response, a tele-conference was held on Wednesday 18 August in which Dr Warren Mellor assisted in briefing the Intersectoral Task Force on Pakistan at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, chaired by Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO. While expressing her profound concern regarding the floods emergency in Pakistan, she appreciated the efforts being made by the UNESCO Islamabad office.

In order to enhance the effectiveness of UNESCOís response, Ms Bokova further shared that a scientific mission from UNESCO HQ will shortly be arriving in Pakistan to provide technical backstopping in hydrology and flood management. The mission will have coordination meetings with Disaster Management authorities for an immediate response to the floods emergency in Pakistan. The teleconference also discussed how cultural heritage sites in Pakistan are at real risk and UNESCOís services can help to ensure their safeguarding. Ms Bokova further added that UNESCO has unique expertise not only in science, communication and culture, but also in education. In this regard, UNESCO will provide a wide range of expertise in assisting Pakistan to restore quality education services in flood-affected areas as soon as practicable.

In Focus - UNESCO's Response to the Flood

UNESCOís Response to Flood Emergency in Pakistan, 2010

Pakistan is prone to natural disasters, even beyond the regular annual problems such as widespread flooding that accompanies any annual monsoon. However, the massive floods that have recently struck the Pakistani people are causing great suffering and apprehension for all, and the domestic government and humanitarian communities are hard pressed to respond adequately. The international agencies, including UNESCO, are mobilizing to provide whatever additional assistance may be required by Government and civil society.

UNESCO Islamabad is responding within its limited resources and with the support of its Headquarters. In Paris, a high-level committee is working feverishly under the chairmanship of the Deputy Director General to marshal resources and technical expertise. In UNESCO Islamabad, a small in house task force has been constituted which is actively involved in providing technical assistance for emergency response in different parts of Pakistan. Initially UNESCO Islamabad is providing relief supplies of food and hygiene products to 500 women and their families who have been participating in an ongoing cultural handicrafts and livelihood project in Swat Valley (Khyber Pakhtoonkwa). It is intended to extend this relief to women and their families participating in UNESCO projects in six other districts: Nowshera, Charsada (in addition to Swat) in Khyber Pakhtoonkwa; Multan, D.G Khan and Muzafargarh in Punjab; and Sukkhur in Sindh Province.

Moreover, UNESCO Islamabad will join in providing technical assistance to United Nations rapid assessment missions as soon as it is practicable to undertake them. For example, UNESCO is concerned about the damage suffered by schools being used as IDP camps in the flood emergency. Preservation and conservation of cultural heritage is another major concern as major World Heritage sites such as Mohenjodaro stand in the path of the floodwaters descending through the Indus River Valley. These assessment missions will play a key role in determining UNESCOís role in follow-up recovery and development phases after the floodwaters recede and subside.

In the meantime, UNESCO Islamabadís in-house taskforce will continue to monitor the flood emergency and to respond to needs, including those expressed through Paris Headquarters. It is clear that considerable effort and resources will be required to restore some semblance of normality and quality to life and to education during the coming months and years.