Pakistani project wins international award


A Pakistani project won an international award for proactive disaster management.

AKAH project combines satellite images, mapping technologies and the local knowledge of villagers. It helps to build climate-proof settlements in disaster-prone areas of Pakistan. This project won an international award on Thursday.

More than one million people have benefited from the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) Pakistan project. The project which was a gold prize winner at the World Habitat Awards that are organised with the United Nations housing agency (UN-Habitat).

AKAH has trained about 50,000 residents to better protect their villages from disasters in the mountainous northern areas. These areas are vulnerable to earthquakes, floods and environmental degradation, and are home to some of the most impoverished communities.

“It’s not just responding to the effects of the climate emergency, but being proactive in protecting people from its effects, using technology and the knowledge of communities,” said David Ireland, chief executive of World Habitat, a charity.

“It provides communities with the knowledge of where and how to live in safety in a changing world. The potential for this approach to be adapted and used in similar areas in Pakistan and elsewhere is absolutely huge,” he said in a statement.

Pakistan is among the most disaster-prone countries in South Asia, according to the World Bank. And the remoteness of the northern mountainous areas makes response efforts difficult.

This project was launched in 2006. It includes mapping and monitoring hazards using satellite images and drones and creating disaster risk management plans with the involvement of residents.

It enables communities to build in safer areas. Furthermore helps them to be better prepared for and respond to disasters, AKAH said.

A key focus for AKAH Pakistan is the involvement of women, who make up about half the volunteers trained for disaster response. They also participate in weather monitoring and mapping of high-risk areas.

“This has given voice to women who had been considered mostly at the margins of society. It also ensures their participation in developing the village disaster risk management plans,” said Samra Siraj, a programme coordinator at AKAH.

“Women who had been conventionally viewed as vulnerable victims of disasters and emergencies, are now empowered individuals. They can actively respond to disasters and serve the communities,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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