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Aid interventions to meet immediate needs

On 30 July 2010, Pakistan declared a ‘disaster’, initially requesting specific forms of aid: air support for rescue and food drops were quickly followed by requests to support the construction of camps and facilities to provide shelter and essential services to those displaced by the flooding. Neighbouring Afghanistan provided a gateway through which military and INGO humanitarian assistance was able to surge.

Photograph of IDP camp in Lunda village in the Charsadda region of Pakistan, following the 2010 floods©Osman Consulting via Islamic Relief Worldwide

In the humanitarian response plans of many agencies, the stated intention was that they would operate for a maximum of three months. The duration, extent and complexity of the floods across Pakistan meant that many large agencies extended their interventions into 2011.

Despite the widespread impact of the floods, less than half the population ever moved to an organised camp, and few moved from their district of residence. This is the case for many wide-area disasters, and a challenge for agencies which might expect to deliver much of their short-term humanitarian aid to those conveniently living in organised camps.

“The situation is one of the most difficult we have ever faced,” said Mengesha Kebede, UNHCR representative in Pakistan. “We are smack in the middle of a catastrophe, people in need are everywhere, some routes are blocked, and even when we deliver tents some people may lack dry land where they can be erected.”

(Kessler 2010)

Photograph of Pakistani flood survivors queuing for food at the UNHCR camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province's Charsadda district on August 3, 2010©A Majeed/AFP via Getty Images

The Pakistan military was the primary national responder (Madiwale and Virk 2011), establishing field hospitals, mobile veterinary teams, and over 100 relief camps. Camps were set up and run by numerous different agencies and those people that did move to organised camps had variable experiences and provisions. To meet immediate needs during the floods, commonly provided aid included:

  • Plastic tarpaulins and/or tents
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping mats
  • Kitchen sets
  • Water collection cans and plastic buckets
  • Mosquito nets
  • Soap and female hygiene kits

Providing clean water for drinking, cooking and washing, as well as toilet facilities, can be particularly challenging in flood disasters of this size.

Your task

Read the section on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Oxfam’s Pakistan Floods Progress report (pages 11-16). How did the agency meet the WASH needs of all the people outside organised camps?


Madiwale, A., and Virk, K. (2011) ‘Civil–military relations in natural disasters: a case study of the 2010 Pakistan floods’. International Review of the Red Cross [online] 93 (884). available from https://www.icrc.org/en/doc/resources/documents/article/review-2011/irrc-884-madiwale-virk.htm [28 April 2020]

Kessler, P. (2010) Pakistan: Getting bogged down [online] available from https://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/latest/2010/8/4c612fea9/pakistan-bogged.html [28 April 2020]

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Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

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