Strangely, even when floods and other disasters affect large numbers of people regularly, the need of significant minorities can be all to often overlooked. Floods are a regular feature of life in the Pakistan province of Sind. But this did not mean that the particular requirements of the disabled and the elderly were built into the planning for what to provide when homes are swept away. That now has changed. And it has changed because of activity spurred by an innovative initiative funded by the UK known as the Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Programme (DEPP). This has established fourteen sub projects in countries where populations are likely to be at risk because of natural disasters or instability. In Pakistan Asim Jaleel Abro of the organisation Tearfund, focused on the neglected needs of the elderly and disabled. The results have been dramatic.
Other organisations quickly understood. There is a high proportion of elderly and disabled in Pakistan and aid responders and civil authorities realised that much more must be done. Asim presented the work at the first every meeting held under the DEPP intending to extract lessons and learn from the experiences going on around the world. The meeting in Nairobi heard that latrines for the disabled were now made available and there are efforts to give income to the disabled to make sure that they are better able to look after themselves in the face of sudden shocks. A key factor in achieving this was that the DEPP programme helped Asim to collaborate with other humanitarian bodies and advocate for specific improvement. You can hear his story in a podcast here.
The meeting in Nairobi was opened by Dr. John Kitui, the Kenya Country Director of Christian Aid. He said he hoped efforts such as DEPP would create new thinking but cautioned that reliance on local efforts to cope with humanitarian emergencies should not be seen as a ‘magic bullet'. There would be times when local action would not be able to cope but international response should not overwhelm, damage local systems and not inject resources into the local economy. You can hear Dr. Kitui speaking about what now needs to happen to reinforce local response and about how his experiences in South Sudan as a young doctor has helped shape his thinking and career here.