Two years after a devastating earthquake in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, UN-HABITAT and Pakistani officials marked the occasion this week by describing the reconstruction and recovery programme as one of the most successful of its kind anywhere in the world in recent years.
They said that more than 150,000 houses had now been rebuilt. With a further 200,000 under construction,all of the planned 600,000 ndew homes will be finished by the middle of next year. The earthquake in Pakistan claimed more than 75,000 lives (among them some 17,000 children killed in collapsing schools), and left more than 3 million homeless.
It was a disaster that underscored the need to re-build smarter and safer. UN-HABITAT therefore helped the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority establish 12 Housing Reconstruction Centers in the quake zone in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and North Western Frontier Province. The agency also helped train over 12,000 people to help run the new centres and ensure that new homes and buildings are more resistant to seismic activity and better adapted to cold weather conditions.
They described this as one of the world's most successful reconstruction operations — and a model for the response to future disasters.
"We started with a lot of hiccups," General Ahmed Nadeem, the Authority’s deputy chairman told The Times of London. "But when you look at the almost finished product now, it's something very unique that's been done on such a large scale."
At the World Habitat Day ceremony in The Hague last week, UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibiajuka, personally presented Gen. Nadeem the 2007 UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honour Award .
“This is the most prestigious award given by the United Nations in recognition of work carried out in the field of human settlements development,” she said citing the way he had shown “great leadership and compassion” in face of calamity to help millions of people rebuild their homes and lives.
In an article published 5 October, The Times cited consensus among international aid organisations that Pakistan has made a surprising and exemplary recovery from its worst natural disaster. "When you fly over Kashmir you can hardly believe there was an earthquake two years ago," Jean-Christophe Adrian, of UN-HABITAT, told the newspaper. "It's really impressive — better than anything we have seen before."
In a recent statement, Mrs. Tibaijuka said: “The need for governments and the international community to adopt early warning systems for cities, towns and villages to prepare and reduce the impact of disasters whether natural or man-made is paramount. This could contribute towards safeguarding livelihoods, human settlements and associated basic services, which are easily destroyed when such disasters strike. During post reconstruction special attention should be paid to women’s secure tenure, rights to land and adequate housing among other issues. Property restitution must be gender sensitive,” she said.