Pakistan Floods–ICT Humanitarian Response

 Mariko Hall of the World Food Program reports on the ICT aspect of the humanitarian response to massive flooding in northwest Pakistan: 

The IT Emergency Preparedness and Response team of WFP is deploying an emergency mission to support the team of five national ICT staff in Islamabad currently managing the operation.

For Pakistan ICT Officer, Akhtar Nawaz, responding to emergencies like this is a large part of his job. Having worked in Pakistan for WFP for the last five years, Akhtar has been directly involved in numerous emergency responses in the country including earthquakes, conflict and flooding. Akhtar was also actively involved in re-building a functioning WFP office after it was destroyed by a suicide bomber in 2009.

Head of FITTEST (Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team) Operations, Dane Novarlic, will be supporting Akhtar’s team in the position of Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) Coordinator. He will be accompanied by IT Officer Nadia Kazmi, also from FITTEST.

Having worked with FITTEST for nearly 10 years, Dane has been involved in the IT response to numerous emergencies, including the Haiti earthquake earlier this year in which he lead the entire IT operation. Dane was also in Pakistan in 2009 responding to the conflict emergency in Swat Valley, and was part of the team which established the IT Emergency Management Training funded by the partnership between United Nations Foundation, Vodafone Foundation and the World Food Programme.

As ETC Coordinator, it will be Dane’s responsibility to ensure an effective and efficient IT response to this emergency. “As soon as we arrive, we will start working with the NGO and UN communities to understand the critical gaps,” says Dane. “From there we can work out exactly what the needs are, who is doing what and where it needs to happen.”

Nadia has recently completed the IT Emergency Management training and is looking forward to putting her consolidated knowledge into practice. “The training reinforced a lot of things for me because it was like a clone of a real emergency,” says Nadia. “We knew it was only a training exercise, but the way that it was conducted made us really feel like we were in an emergency operation. I feel I am much more prepared now to manage this mission.” Akhtar has also successfully completed the IT Emergency Management training.

In addition to responding to the flood emergency, Akhtar’s team is in the process of moving the entire WFP office to a secure enclave. WFP has been operating from a temporary base since the attack on the office last year.

Priorities for this mission are to support both the flooding emergency and the office move. “Everything is a risk,” says Nadia. “You are a target wherever you are so you need to take precautionary measures. This office move needs to go smoothly.”

“Most of the systems that we established last year during the Swat Valley emergency are still in place,” says Dane. “However, the area damaged by the flooding is larger than the area we covered then so it may be necessary to extend coverage of the infrastructure.”

Weather forecasts for the coming days predict more rainfall in northwestern Pakistan which would escalate the severity of the already devastating floods.

“Our goal is to assist the local office in the best way possible, whilst alleviating the troubles of the Pakistani people who have suffered so much over the last few years,” says Nadia. “Through the technical expertise we bring, we can help in a number of areas and ensure an efficient and effective operation.”