Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) Earthquake Project (Documentary Script)

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Amer Rizwan

Poverty – the condition of want, resourcessless and substandard life that can easily lead to social disintegration and societal chaos. Myriad of factors are responsible for creating a strand of poverty in the otherwise complex, but dynamic social structure of Pakistan.

Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) is the lead institution for poverty-focused interventions in Pakistan. It strives to achieve its goals through wholesaling funds and civil society organizations for provision of financial and non-financial services at the grassroots throughout the country. All PPAF developmental initiatives are conceived and conceptualized within a community-led, demand-driven framework. Set up as a fully autonomous private sector institution under section 42 of the Companies Act of 1982, PPAF enjoys facilitation and support from the Government of Pakistan, the World Bank and international donors.

Like any other vibrant organization, PPAF was ready to cope with the mammoth task posed by the October 2005 mighty tremor, measured around 7.6 on the rector scale that converted everything in the earthquake affected areas into debris and ruins. Though the challenge was enormous and its magnitude and nature different from PPAF’s regular nationwide responsibilities, yet in keeping with its tradition, and rightly counting on the resilience of the people of the earthquake affected areas, it was equal to the task. The earthquake might have added new pages to the annals of history; yet more memorable ones were yet to be added; the death and destruction of the day inspired a new resolve into a bruised but unbowed nation that was bent upon confronting the tragedy of colossal proportions. The reaction was immediate and from diverse areas and professions ranging from the civil society, armed forces, donors, charity organizations to volunteers from across the world.

The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund was taken aboard as a partner of choice by ERRA with dedicated responsibility for 34 Union Councils of AJK and NWFP of the earthquake affected area. The support from World Bank initially, and IFAD, Kfw and CESP subsequently enabled PPAF to acquire its resource base capability.

Setting an example for the other relief agencies to follow, the PPAF, soon after the tragedy, pulled its resources together, contributed Rupees One Million to “President’s Relief Fund” from its own resources besides donating one day salary of the staff. The World Bank consented to divert US $ 5 Million from PPAF’s existing programme towards relief efforts. It rolled out 500 truckloads of relief goods to the affected areas. As many as 150,000 CGI sheets with tool kits were distributed through 100 US Chinook helicopter sorties supported by Pakistan Army and US Air-force in the high-altitude affected areas of NWFP and AJK. A Disaster Management Centre was set up at Head Office Islamabad. The Centre also comprised of a Disaster Management Committee with representation from partner organizations, Pakistan Army and the Government of Pakistan to set out a mechanism for PPAF’s relief activities that had started in earnest in the next twenty four hours. Additionally, four forward offices were set up to coordinate and supervise the on-ground distribution efforts carried out by other partner organizations. They also provided to the Centre in Islamabad with an effective mechanism for delivering much-needed supplies to isolated communities in the far-flung areas. Besides, a need-assessment was carried out by the front offices of PPAF to assess needs of victims on daily basis and to address those needs accordingly.

The mighty tremor wrought huge damage; devouring 73,000, severely injuring 70,000 persons, and displacing as many as 3.5 million of them. Over 600,000 housing units, 6,298 schools and 796 health facilities were either destroyed or severely damaged, while the administrative and communication infrastructure suffered massive losses. Over all nine districts of Azad Kashmir and NWFP with an inhospitable terrain, covering a 30,000 km area was destroyed.

After the successful rescue and relief operation, PPAF undertook the gigantic task of constructing approximately 117, 857 seismically appropriate housing units located in the 34 most-damaged Union Councils of the affected area. PPAF made disbursements to each affected household at Rs. 150,000 per completely destroyed dwelling unit in three tranches. This unprecedented bold venture on the part of PPAF helped finance costs associated with social mobilization, provision of housing, community physical infrastructure, public buildings and technical assistance. About 75,000 individuals were also trained in construction related trades, disaster/programme Management.

Trained social organizers and relevant staff from the partner organizations were organized into 110 Social Mobilization Teams (SMTs) for conducting the damage assessment exercise.

Once the volume of damage was assessed, and relief and rescue over, the phase of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction got underway with an unprecedented alacrity and effectiveness establishing PPAF’s credentials as a viable institution for managing community based programmes on scale. To meet its targets in this regard, the Disaster Management Centre was up-scaled into the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (R&R) Unit. For the better implementation of the R&R project, PPAF selected, on the basis of merit and effectiveness, six partner organizations and assigned various responsibilities to them. It doesn’t end here; the process of mobilizing communities led to the establishment of Community Organizations (COs) for channelizing development action through informed decision making at the grassroots.

Houses provide security to the inmates not only from the inclement weather but also from the more physical threats all around. A house is the basic unit of a sine qua non for a peaceful, prosperous and forward-looking society. But October 2005 earthquake robbed the people of the affected areas from this facility. In all 122,000 housing structures were successfully documented for prospective funding on the basis of an established criterion. With the aid of assessment forms provided by ERRA, every assessed house was put in one of three categories: Completely Damaged (CD); Partially Damaged (PD); and Non-structural Damage (ND). A household got Rs. 50,000 for a partially damaged structure; and Rs. 150,000 for a completely destroyed structure in three tranches at different stages of reconstruction with spot checks from qualified engineers verifying adherence to the ERRA-recommended seismically-proof construction design.

The seriousness as well as the scale of reconstruction was unprecedented. In order to ensure the availability of correct specifications of concrete blocks, PPAF and its partners set up around 2400 steel casts in the earthquake affected areas.

Mr. Azam Khan of Ghaniabad, District Bagh AJK became PPAF’s first beneficiary in earthquake areas to receive initial installment of Rs. 75000 from Nadim Ahmad Deputy Chairman ERRA as a first tranche of the housing reconstruction grant.

The significance of capacity building could hardly be overestimated. PPAF, in coordination with ERRA and specified agencies, trained and oriented, in 344 training sessions, 15,655 house-owners, craftsmen and staff-members of the partner organizations in order to establish the rebuilding process on firm footing.

One of the biggest damage wrought by the earthquake was the total destruction of the village-level water and sanitation systems and communication networks. PPAF’s pre-earthquake interventions in these areas, largely in the fields of drinking water supplies, sanitation and link roads, greatly benefited it in achieving its targets efficiently. In all, PPAF approved the rehabilitation of 100 projects within its project area.

As per the damage assessment estimates, almost 95% education institutions in the three most affected districts of AJK and 53% in the affected areas of NWFP were either completely or partially damaged. The much-needed health infrastructure suffered a similar ruin. With funding made available by the World Bank and CESP, PPAF engaged three partner organizations for reconstructing health and education infrastructure in the affected areas.

This PPAF’s sponsored Basic Health Unit at Kathai is only one of the many of its kind which has the facilities of quality OPD services, labour rooms, gynecology ward and pharmacies. Schools are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities like science and computer labs, tuck shops, playground and the like.

The earthquake permanently maimed and disabled many in the affected areas. PPAF and its partners courtesy the World Bank, seek to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities and for their families through targeted interventions ensuring better mobility, improved health and increased participation in community life. The Disability Project envisaged the provision of medical treatment, physical rehabilitation, provision of prosthetics and other aids, psycho-counseling and other specialized services.

By identifying and reaching vulnerable communities through Community Action Planning, by economizing on the costs of construction and effectively involving the stake-holders, PPAF not only helped avoid duplication but also achieved its targets well within the set timeframe. The hustle and bustle of life in these areas and the marvelous determination reflected from the faces speak volumes of the substantial success scored in different areas thanks to the resilience of the general people and the diligence of the PPAF’s and its partner organizations’ staff. The full effects of these ventures like capacity building and disability projects would be seen in the years to come.

Amer Rizwan

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