Pakistan Flash Appeal Launched; The UN Natural Disaster Response, Explained

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched a $459.7 million flash appeal for Pakistan.

The way these things work is that within a few days after a major disaster like this strikes, OCHA conducts an immediate needs assessment. OCHA coordinates with UN agencies (like UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency and the World Food Program) and international NGOs (like the ICRC) that specialize in emergency response to get a quick estimation of their specific needs. That includes things like tents and tarps and sat phones and food rations. Then, based on that information, OCHA launches what is known as a “flash appeal.”

There are some funds stored away that can be released immediately, but the vast majority of the appeal is funded through the voluntary contributions of member states.  Basically, OCHA depends on the good graces of wealthy countries to pledge money. Then, once those pledges are made, OCHA has to make sure that countries actually pony up.  After about one month, OCHA will have a wider perspective on the longer-term humanitarian needs of communities affected by the disaster.  At this point, they will launch what is called a “consolidated appeal.” That appeal is generally much larger than the flash appeal.

For comparisons sake, the flash appeal for Haiti was $577 million and was 100% filled within one month.  The consolidated appeal stands at about $1.4billion, and is currently 64% filled. 

  Also, as a general rule, flash appeals are more quickly funded than consolidated appeals. So far, a number of countries have stepped forward with funding for the UN emergency response in Pakistan.  About $47 million has already been committed by donors, with $99 million remaining in pledges. That leaves a $300 million gap. 

This is where those funds will be directed:

Shelter is an urgent priority. $105 million is required to provide tents or plastic sheeting, as well as basic household goods, for an initial target of over 2 million people. “We are working round the clock to get these items manufactured and delivered”, said Martin Mogwanja, Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan. “I can confidently say that the response could not be any faster.” More than 65,000 tents have already been delivered, covering at least 450,000 people, along with plastic sheets for an estimated 60,000 people.

With a high risk of a food crisis, food assistance will be necessary for up to six million people across the country, requiring $150.5 million, while $5.7 million will be needed to ensure the survival of livestock. So far, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have delivered more than 4,350 metric tons (MT) of food to at least 370,000 people, including in the remote Swat Valley, which had been cut off from assistance until last week.

Clean water is due to be provided to approximately six million people who may otherwise face an increasing risk of waterborne diseases, requiring $110.5 million. More than one million people have already received clean water thanks to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners.

Some $56.2 million will be required for emergency health care, covering potentially up to 14 million people, while $14.2 million is needed to ensure proper nutrition for children aged under five, and for pregnant or lactating women – the most vulnerable. Different types of medication have already been provided for prevention and treatment of several diseases.