Launching a two-year programme to help restore the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of survivors of last October’s devastating earthquake in Pakistan, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced the formation of a team of 23 expert mountain guides to fully assess damage and needs.
The Remote, Reconnaissance and Response team (RRR), attached to the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), is made of 8 mountain guides from Canada, some of whom have experience of altitudes of 8,000 metres, and 15 Pakistani mountain guides from Hunza, the Pakistani hub for Himalayan hiking.
Its formation follows the successful deployment by WFP at the start of winter of a team of so-called “quake jumpers” – mountaineers taken by helicopter to remote and snowbound villages to make early assessments of needs and damage.
WFP is planning a two-year programme to assist the restoration of the livelihoods of the survivors, targeting food insecure families through food-for-work and asset creation projects, focusing on forestry, agriculture and road repair. Some 670,000 people will receive food rations while they rebuild their homes and community infrastructure.
The RRR team will be essential in locating the sites for food-for-work projects. Equipped with a fleet of off-road vehicles, it will be able to reach the most remote villages, some of them accessible only by foot. One assessment already carried out involved walking for 16 days.
“We are checking the road conditions, assessing the level of destruction in the villages, checking if the water supply has been cut off, seeing if the sanitation and health conditions have changed,” team project manager Chris McGeough said. “At the same time, we thoroughly investigate the feasibility of people returning to their homes.”
The team will look for damaged roads, irrigation systems and houses of vulnerable families that can be rehabilitated through such projects and for sites to construct greenhouses, coordinating its efforts with the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to initiate projects to help people regain self sufficiency faster when they return home.
The food-for-work projects will be undertaken in remote villages where food production, access to markets, employment and credit facilities will continue to be hampered until basic infrastructure and trade are restored.
The team will also investigate ways to rehabilitate the health infrastructure with the assistance of a medical services expert.