Water Journal : Water Journal March 2011
feature article water MARCH 2011 55 visits which provided opportunities for first-hand observations and interviews with the displaced population, community leaders and all levels of government. The enormous extent of this disaster in terms of the geographical area, numbers displaced, extensive destruction of private and public assets and the difficulties of access made it very challenging to undertake the rapid assessment that is required by the FACT. These assessments are essential to ensure that the international response is quick, appropriate and targeted7. The FACT prepared a plan of action which took into account the capacity of the PRCS, timelines, budgets, plus the need to request outside assistance including ERUs. WatSan Stories from the Floodline: Analysing Impacts and Planning for Early Recovery Suzie Sarkis In September, I was deployed as a WatSan delegate to work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent and the PRCS to analyse the impact of the floods on existing water and sanitation infrastructure, and hygiene practices. The analysis incorporated first-hand interviews with the affected population and a review of secondary data from field assessments. This then informed a multi-sectoral action plan, which addressed the affected population's early recovery needs in WatSan, livelihoods, shelter and health. Dressed in a salwar kameez and head scarf, I travelled for hours over many days with my colleagues to flood-affected areas, including urban and rural communities in the mountains and flatlands and to IDP camps. We were shocked at the devastation left by the floods. Most of the people we spoke with were poor. Many had taken generations to accumulate the few possessions they had, only to see them washed away and destroyed along with their livelihoods. In the mountainous regions, including Kohistan and Shangla districts, the raging flood waters ripped through the valleys taking entire villages with great loss of life. Winter was approaching, with snow already on mountain peaks. The provision of transitional shelter in these regions was identified as a priority. Specific Impacts of Floods on WatSan Infrastructure One of the major consequences of this disastrous flood was the impact on drinking water, sanitation and public health. The loss of water and sanitation infrastructure also posed challenges for reinstating critical community services in the areas of health, livelihood and education. Water supply sources vary across the country depending largely on the geographical area. In mountainous regions water supplies are predominantly gravity flow systems. Most of these systems were either severely damaged or washed away. In flatter flood-affected areas, urban and rural water supplies comprise mainly bores, tube wells and hand pumps. To a large extent, hand pumps (although often contaminated as they typically draw from shallow water tables), bore and tube well water supplies withstood the impact of the floods, and can be considered a sound disaster risk reduction initiative if properly constructed. Unfortunately, however, the majority of wells in rural areas were covered with debris and mud. Prior to the disaster, the majority of the affected population in urban and peri-urban areas had access to pour-flush latrines connected to septic tanks. With the majority of latrine superstructures destroyed, open defecation increased. The potential for vector-borne diseases also increased due to stagnant flood waters, blocked drainage systems, poor solid waste management, and the loss of storage facilities for food and animal fodder. Lack of safe water and supporting infrastructure (such as water pipes and latrines) led to deterioration in hygiene practices. IDP camps were identified as a high priority for sanitation and hygiene support. As a result, a Mass Sanitation Module (MSM) ERU was deployed. Providing Relief and Recovery in WatSan In order to prevent the spread of disease, clean water, good hygiene and proper sanitation remain a priority need as the country recovers from the floods. One of the greatest challenges in an emergency of this size is finding safe water. Red Cross and Red Crescent have been at the forefront of the response in the affected areas. To date, water and sanitation services have provided relief to more than half a million flood survivors across the country. Services include drinking water from water treatment plants, latrines and hygiene promotion8. PHOTO: PAUL BYLEVELD Spraying residual insecticide for malaria control in a flood-affected house.
Water Journal April 2011