PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOCUS EXPANDS RELIEF EFFORT FOR VICITIMS OF CYCLONE GAFILO IN MADAGASCAR TO HEALTH AND EDUCATION NEEDS
Antananarivo, Madagascar, 26 March, 2004 – Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network, has decided to expand its emergency relief intervention into education and health care support to serve some of the more than 200,000 people affected by Cyclone Gafilo in northern Madagascar. This intervention is part of the commitment of US$100,000 made by His Highness the Aga Khan in his message of sympathy to President Marc Ravalomanana following the cyclone.
Responding to urgent needs, FOCUS—in partnership with the Conseil National de Secours (CNS), (the Government of Madagascar’s national disaster agency), Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF and other agencies—has already transported provisions and education support material by truck and boat to some of the most remote parts of Majunga province.
“Work has commenced on responding in a preventive manner to the very high risk of widespread water-borne disease, in coordination with other local and international agencies, said Mr. Pinou Cheraly, FOCUS’s representative in Majunga, “we have already begun to identify needs in the education sector and to plan solutions involving targeted material assistance.”
Cyclone Gafilo made landfall near the city of Antalaha in Antsiranana province with winds averaging 300 kilometres per hour battering the northern part of Madagascar less than a month after Cyclone Elita swept a similar path killing 29 people.
FOCUS, whose experience includes responses to similar major cyclones in Mozambique (in 2000) and in Pakistan (in 1999), last intervened in Madagascar during a cholera outbreak in 1999.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance Europe Foundation
Fax : +44 208 655 16 49
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.akdn.org
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) is an international group of agencies established in Europe, North America, and South and Central Asia that have developed a specialisation in disaster preparedness, mitigation, prevention and disaster response.
FOCUS is an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network. The Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies and institutions that seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of Africa and Asia. Active in over 30 countries, the Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion.
Japanese Embassy, Focus Humanitarian Assistance sign agreement to reduce the risk of communities in Tajikistan to natural hazards
March 26, 2009
Posted by ismailimail in Aga Khan Development Network, Asia, FOCUS Humanitarian, Tajikistan.
March 25, 2009, Asia-PLUS Daily Blitz
DUSHANBE, March 25, 2009, Asia-Plus — Every year communities in the mountainous regions of Tajikistan are subject to natural hazards such as landslides and debris flows.
In an effort to reduce the resulting risk run by those communities, the Embassy of Japan in Dushanbe and Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) on March 20 signed an agreement to hydro-insulate a water channel in the district of Roshtqala and rehabilitate a debris flow channel in the district of Ishkashim, press release issued by FOCU Humanitarian Assistance said.
FOCUS will implement these activities in partnership with the Government of Tajikistan and the communities in these districts. The agreement is signed under the auspices of the Japanese Grant Assistance for Grass-root Human Security Projects and is a continuation of the long-standing partnership between the Government of Japan and FOCUS to reduce the risk of communities in Tajikistan to natural hazards.
Since 2001, FOCUS, with the support of the Government of Japan, has implemented a variety of disaster risk reduction projects in the Republic of Tajikistan.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) is an international disaster management and emergency response agency providing relief and support services during and following natural and man-made disasters, primarily in the developing world. It is established in Europe, North America, Central and South Asia and helps people in need reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid and facilitates their transition to sustainable, self-reliant, long-term development. Since 1997, FOCUS in Tajikistan has responded to over 40 natural disasters and deployed over USD 600,000 for relief to affected communities.
FOCUS is an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve opportunities and living conditions for people of all faiths and origins in specific regions of the developing world.
A changing climate: Exploring the social impact of global warming
On Wednesday, 18 February, guests at the Ismaili Centre Lecture Series in London found themselves captivated by the vibrant panel discussion taking place before them. The “hot” topic was global warming, and its impact on the developing world. The audience quickly discovered it to be an issue that offers no easy answers.
The panel was chaired by Dan Smith of International Alert, a London-based international peace-building organisation. He was joined by Camilla Toulmin of the International Institute for Environment and Development, an independent think-tank, and Lord Adair Turner, Chairman of both the United Kingdom Government's Committee on Climate Change and the country’s independent Financial Services Authority. Dr Salim Sumar, Executive Officer of Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) Europe, completed the panel.
The panellists engage in discussion. From left to right: Dan Smith, Lord Adair Turner, Camilla Toulmin, Dr Salim Sumar. Photo: Abdul Khakoo
In addition to exploring the causes of climate change and possible ways to mitigate its impact, the panel sought to look at the issue from a different perspective. Although the current discourse around climate change focuses on its consequences for the natural environment, these consequences also carry social implications that have a profound bearing on the work of FOCUS.
FOCUS, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network, aims to foster disaster-resilience in communities that are particularly vulnerable to natural and man-made disaster. It also extends humanitarian relief and recovery in the wake of disasters.
The panel began by examining the potential impact of global warming on economic development. Storms affected by climate change can damage or destroy infrastructure that is critical to the functioning of an economy. Moreover, many countries are experiencing new rainfall patterns. Southern Africa is receiving less precipitation, rendering the region prone to drought, while increased rainfall in the northern and eastern parts of the continent result in flooding.
Such changes, speculated the panel, would create winners and losers — and that this could lead to conflict.
Sumar noted that effective responses to disasters are less simple than they were in the past, and that more NGOs are needed to help in regions affected by floods. In addition, Smith pointed out that the impact of disasters is difficult to confine within borders; floods that affect India, for example, go on to affect Bangladesh.
Lord Turner reflected on the UK’s leadership role. He observed that even if global targets are met, global temperatures may still increase two degrees by 2020. The panellists agreed, as discussion moved to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen planned for December 2009, that the UK and the United States had to take the lead in swaying other countries in a positive direction.
But international diplomacy is only one part of a broader shift in thinking. There is a need for governments and civil society to “start measuring what we value, rather than just economic factors,” said Toulmin. This should result in a shift towards cooperation and away from conflict; economic growth should not be the only driving factor in decision making. However, Lord Turner felt that “we can solve climate change and still have growth in GDP, as long as we don’t make it as much of an end as we have in the past.”
Recent years have seen climate change established as a fact. Now the challenge is to arrest the pace of this change and assist the poorest in mitigating its impact on their livelihoods. Asked what single thing could most help to mitigate conflict stemming from climate change, Toulmin summed up: “Real security comes from building a climate of trust, rather than building a climate of fear.”
Swine influenza, or “swine flu”, is a contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. People do not normally get swine flu, but cases of human infection with swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses have been reported and confirmed internationally.
Is this swine flu virus contagious?
The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.
This virus is thought to be spreading in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food.
How can transmission of the flu be avoided?
To protect yourself and others, practice general preventive measures for influenza:
Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell or who have fever and cough
Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly
Practice good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active
Clean hard surfaces (kitchen worktops, door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product
Do I need a face mask?
Although wearing a mask is unlikely to be effective in preventing the infection it may limit further spread of the virus.
What are the symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of ordinary flu, but may be more severe and cause serious complications. The typical symptoms are:
Other symptoms may include:
limb or joint pain
diarrhoea or vomiting
loss of appetite
If you have flu-like symptoms:
If you develop severe flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately, particularly if you have recently travelled to Mexico or another affected area.
If you are sick stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.
What precautions should I take if I am travelling?
People using public transport are being reminded to observe good hygiene. In regard to international travel, please refer to your local transport authority for guidance and recommendations.
What is a pandemic?
A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population. It begins by causing serious illness and then spreads from person-to-person.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance Receives UN Disaster Reduction Award
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (Pakistan) was selected by the Jury of the 2009 UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction to receive a Certificate of Merit for enhancing disaster risk reduction. Chairman Amyn Dossa, together with the Executive Officer Ghulam Panjwani, received the award at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2nd forum, on behalf of Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) from Sir John Holmes, the Under Secretary for humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
The United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster reduction is one of the three prestigious awards established in 1986 by founding Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, Mr Ryoichi Sasakawa. The Award is managed by the UNISDR secretariat and presented to individuals/institutions that have been selected by independent jury for their outstanding contributions to disaster prevention and vulnerability reduction worldwide.
About the recipients of the 2009 UN Sasakawa Prize for Disaster Reduction
The 2009 laureate for the Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction is geologist Dr. Eko Teguh Paripurno, as was unanimously decided by the jury for the Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction. Additionally, five organizations actively involved in disaster reduction are awarded Certificates (two Certificates of Distinction, three Certificates of Merit). All award winners significantly contributed to the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, a globally adopted plan to further Disaster Risk Reduction. The decisions were taken following a selection process involving careful deliberation and a thorough review of the submitted material.
With the recovery 13 more bodies from the debris of a collapsed building in Liaquatabad No. 6, the death toll for the incident reached 17 on Wednesday. One of the 13 injured died at the Abbassi Shaheed Hospital, sources told The News.
The four-storey under-construction building on plot no. 517 collapsed around 8:30 pm Tuesday night near Firdous Market in Liaquatabad No.6. Rescue workers from different agencies pulled out 13 injured people, and 16 bodies from the debris.
The removal of debris with heavy machinery was under way till the time this report was filed.
“Volunteers of Focus Pakistan were using snake-eye cameras and vibraphones to detect anybody still alive but trapped in the debris of the collapsed building. Some 13 injured people were rescued,” said Murad Pyar Ali, the team leader of the Focus Pakistan Search and Rescue Team, affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network.
The Focus Pakistan team members, who were trained by experts from Sweden and UK in carrying out search and rescue operations and have the experience of working at the destroyed site of Marriot Hotel Islamabad, said that they reached the site around 10:00 pm Tuesday night.
“Our 14 male and six female rescuers are here in two shifts since then and are assisting the city and town administration in pulling out the injured from the rubble.” another Focus Pakistan member, Zainab, said.
Those who died in the incident were identified as 55-year-old Abdul Hameed, 35-year-old Imran, Tahir, Imran, Muhammad Zareen, Wahid Chiniot, Akhtar, Gul Bacha, Sher Bacha, Khan Noor, Muhammad Sebroz Khan, Aqeel, Sufyan, Abdul Nazir, Dildar, Ghulam Rasool and Yusuf. The latter is believed to be one of the owners of the collapsed building.
The injured people were identified as Muhammad Zeeshan, Abdus Sattar, Ghulam Ahmed, Sabira Khatoon, Tahir Shahzad, Fawad, Mehmood Sarfraz, Zulfiqar, Janu, and Muhammad Javed, along with one unidentified person who was still unconscious.
Rescuers, including officials of the city government, Liaquatabad Town administration, Fire brigade personnel and crew from private rescue services, said that they were trying their best to pull out anybody trapped alive inside the building.
“Over 60 to 70 per cent of the debris and rubble has been removed and the rest will be cleared within next three to four hours. There may be more people trapped in the building, but their chances of survival are diminishing,” Afzal, an official of the Fire Brigade said.
Case Registered: The Liaquatabad police have registered a case on the complaint of Arif against two people, Yousuf (said to be the owner of the building) and Zeeshan (who fled from the hospital in an injured condition).
SHO Liaquatabad Naeem Khan told The News that they have registered a case under sections 322, 288, 377 A-1 and 337 F-1. “An FIR (123/09) has been registered on the complaint of Arif against Yousuf and Zeeshan but we have made no arrests so far in this connection,” he said.
‘It collapsed with a bang — I couldn’t speak’: Twenty-eight-year-old Muhammad Javed, who was pulled out of the debris by the rescuers after 16 hours, was taken to the Abbassi Shaheed Hospital where he was rapidly recovering but was in a state of shock after seeing death so closely.
He told The News that he was a labourer by profession and it was his first day at the site of the under-construction building when it collapsed in the evening.
“I am a resident of Orangi Town and have three children. I was hired by the contractor at Rs330 per day and my job was to work as a painter and general labourer at the building. I was on the ground floor of the building when it collapsed with a bang just a few minutes after the Maghrib prayer call,” Javed said.
He said that when the building collapsed, a cloud of dust and darkness engulfed him but he found some open space where he could sit. “It was dark there. I could hear distant sounds such as screams and shouts but I didn’t make any noise as I was in complete shock,” he said.
Javed said although he sustained injuries in the head, back and legs, he didn’t feel any pain and the only thoughts in his mind were about God and his children.
Eyewitnesses’ speak: Najeebullah, a waiter at a tea shop near the collapsed building, was was a few yards away from this building when he saw it coming down. “Its front portion fell on the main street that connects it with Sharah-e-Pakistan. At that time, there were several people under the building, including women and children,” he said.
Another person, Farhan, said that he was sitting outside the shop opposite the collapsed building when he saw it falling.
“There were many people near and under the building while the street was crowded with pushcarts, women, children and other passersby. I believe that well over 30 people were trapped underneath the debris when the building fell,” he said.
Hike4Life around Issyk Kul Lake Kyrgyzstan
August 6, 2009
Posted by ismailimail in Asia, FOCUS Humanitarian, Kyrgyzstan.
Forty hikers from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Switzerland, UK and USA arrived in Kyrgyzstan to embark on the first Summer Hike4Life around Issyk Kul Lake. The hikers are motivated by a desire to help communities around the world benefit from the work of Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an international crisis response and disaster risk mitigation affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
Hike4Life is part of a series of annual FOCUS Challenge events that have taken the form of bike rides and hikes through some of the most challenging trails and beautiful environments in the world. “The event is being held in Central Asia for the first time and we have chosen Kyrgyzstan because of the strong relationship that AKDN has with this country,” said one of the organizing team members.
During a fascinating nine-day adventure the participants will hike over 100 kilometres following on of the routes of the ancient Silk Road on the southern coast of the Issyk Kul Lake starting from the stunning Boom gorge to the City of Karakol via Jety Ogyz mountain pass, along Chon and Kichi Kyzyl Suu.
“This is a great event helping people to network globally, to get exposed to so many different cultures and learn more about Kyrgyzstan, its beautiful nature and traditions,” shared her expectations one of the event participants.
In preparations for the event, participants have spent months raising funds and spreading awareness of FOCUS’ work in their home countries. Funds raised through Challenge events go towards empowering communities living in disaster-prone regions, where FOCUS provides humanitarian responses when disasters occur, and helps communities prepare by training them to become first responders. In 2008, following the devastating earthquake in Nura Village, FOCUS through AKDN provided relief assistance to the affected people of Kyrgyzstan.
Previous Hike4Life events have been organized in the winter in Egypt, India, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania. FOCUS is planning the Hike4Life event in Uganda this winter.
FOCUS and Council for Canada Honored by Canadian Government
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) and the Council for Canada, together with a number of other organizations, were honored for their work on refugee settlement at a ceremony in Toronto, on Friday, October 9, 2009.
The occasion was the 30th Anniversary of the Private Sponsorship Program (PSR) run by the Canadian Government which has facilitated over 200,000 refugees to enter the country, settle and establish new lives.
Through protocols with the Canadian and Quebec governments between 1992 and 2001 members of our Jamat from Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Syria were resettled in Canada by FOCUS Canada on behalf of the Council. The National Settlement Portfolio provided resettlement assistance to our brothers and sisters following their arrival in Canada.
In a letter presented to sponsorship holders, The Honorable Jason Kenney PC, MP Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, indicated that “the work you undertake in supporting refugees is a voluntary act, motivated by compassion, caring, and desire to take an active role in protecting refugees… I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude for your contribution and personal sacrifice, which has allowed Canada to fulfill its humanitarian commitment to assist victims of
persecution, human rights violations, and injustice from around the globe. The support from you and your organization has saved lives and ensured that sponsored refugees contribute to the social economic, political and cultural life of Canadian society”.
Mr Gulam Juma, Focus International Coordinating Committee coordinator and Ms. Mina Mawani, CEO of the Council for Canada attended the ceremony in Toronto.
FOCUS Canada is an agency of the Council which assists in the preparedness for disaster response and recovery from natural and man-made disasters affecting the Jamat. FOCUS strives to establish the Jamat as a disaster resilient community.
FOCUS recognised for its disaster response and relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes
Ali Velshi and SACC President Mustafa Tameez present the 2009 Outstanding Community Organization Award to FOCUS Board Member Nasir Panjwani. Photo: Shiraz Maherali
At a Gala Dinner on 9 October, the South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) of Houston, Texas honoured Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) with the 2009 Outstanding Community Organization Award for their disaster response and relief efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, Rita and Ike that affected the Southern United States.
Founded in 1993, the SACC is a non-profit organisation representing South Asian Americans, whose mission is to provide leadership that helps create regional economic prosperity and success for its members.
From left: Ali Velshi (CNN), Shaukat Zakaria (SACC Co-Chair), Mustafa Tameez (SACC President), Dr Amirali Popatia (FOCUS), Nasir Panjwani (FOCUS), Munira Panjwani-Zahid (SACC Co-chair), Nomaan Husain (SACC President-elect). Photo: Shiraz Maherali
Focus Humanitarian Assistance is an international disaster planning, risk management and crisis response agency. Its planning function includes training, stockpiling and expertise in times of crises. During a crisis, whether natural or man-made, it provides emergency relief to all communities in its areas of operation.
“The reason Focus Humanitarian Assistance was chosen for the Outstanding Community Organization Award was because it’s doing impressive humanitarian work for the community at large, not only in the US, but globally, ” said SACC President Mustafa Tameez.
FOCUS volunteers offer support to the community in Beaumont, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Photo: Courtesy of FOCUS
Chief Guest and CNN business anchor Ali Velshi presented the award to Dr Amirali Popatia, Vice-Chairman of FOCUS USA, and Nasir Panjwani, FOCUS USA Board member, at the Gala banquet. Velshi, author of Gimme My Money Back: Your Guide to Beating the Financial Crisis, was chosen as the keynote speaker in appreciation of his work as an outstanding media personality in the business world.
In his opening remarks, President Tameez remarked on the dedication of FOCUS volunteers and staff, who in anticipation of Hurricane Ike established a Crisis Response Team and 24-hour hotline to offer information and timely assistance to those affected. Rozmin Velani, one of the volunteers, recounts that “in one of the calls to the hotline, there was a frantic call from a family.”
FOCUS volunteers and staff in San Antonio work to sort and distribute clothes to help those affected rebuild their lives. Photo: Courtesy of FOCUS“
This family had an older parent visiting from another state,” she continues, “and in the midst of the storm, the parent started experiencing chest pains. With most communication methods overwhelmed and 9-1-1 emergency response unreachable due to the overload of calls, the Hurricane Ike Hotline was crucial.” Volunteers on the other end of the phone were able to guide the family through the crisis and get appropriate assistance, which helped save a life.
Throughout the hurricanes that devastated parts of the Southern United States, volunteers assisted in providing food and supplies to over 150 000 displaced people who sought shelter in Houston, while over 250 FOCUS volunteers participated in training by the Red Cross to assist displaced individuals in various shelters. Volunteers also worked with local governments and agencies to ensure that mandatory evacuation orders were adhered to, and that residents were safe and comfortable.
Many families lost their homes and livelihoods following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. FOCUS volunteers and staff in San Antonio, brought smiles to the faces of young children and families by distributing clothes, toys and basic amenities as part of an effort to assist them in rebuilding their lives. Photo: Courtesy of FOCUS
FOCUS collaborated closely with the Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston and the City of Houston in delivering meals, water and ice immediately after the hurricane had passed. In coordination with other volunteer groups, FOCUS volunteers helped to remove debris from ruined homes and ensured that resettlement assistance was available to families in need. Although the hurricanes caused massive devastation, it also left lasting footprints, as people from different walks of life came together with a common goal of assisting others.
The work of FOCUS’ dedicated staff and volunteers in the United States and throughout the world has ensured that communities who have been affected by disaster are not only able to cope in the immediate aftermath, but are also better prepared should any future disaster befall them. It is also forging strong relationships with a number of international and local partner agencies and institutions in order to better serve the communities in which they operate. FOCUS continually seeks to be a model, world-class community-based emergency humanitarian assistance organisation, with an emphasis on developing disaster resilient communities.
As an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development (AKDN), FOCUS works alongside the global agencies of the AKDN in regions where longer term development is viable and sustainable after a social crisis. FOCUS and AKDN agencies also collaborate to provide health and livelihood recovery and rehabilitation initiatives for vulnerable groups during protracted crises.
Tajikistan : News Bulletin No.13, 27 Jan - 10 Feb 2010
Source: United Nations Country Team in Tajikistan
Date: 10 Feb 2010
Full_Report (pdf* format - 63.3 Kbytes)
At a glance
- Retrofitted schools withstand quake in Vanj
- 14,000 people in Rasht have water again
- Damage to 5 non-retrofitted schools in Vanj
- In-kind assistance from Iranian Red Crescent
- Early Recovery Appeal funded for 46%
Retrofitted schools withstand quake in Vanj
During the recent earthquake in Vanj district, in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), all three schools retrofitted in recent months by Focus Humanitarian Assistance withstood the tremors without incurring damage.
In 2009, as part of its on-going mission to foster disaster-resilient communities in Tajikistan, FOCUS piloted the School Safety Initiative Project in collaboration with the Government of Tajikistan and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The project identified 12 pilot schools in the districts of Vanj, Rushan, Shugnan and Roshtqala in GBAO. A number of disaster risk reduction interventions were applied, including a risk assessment and mapping, structural retrofitting of the schools, earthquake risk awareness, and preparedness trainings for the communities.
According to the Director of one of the pilot schools located in Paishanbeobod, a village affected by the quake, "the [retrofitted] school is very safe and a model of how to construct community infrastructure." For more information: email@example.com
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May 19, 2010 by Gilgit-Baltistan Times Leave a Comment
Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani visited Lake Barrier and Gulmit Water has entered mouth of the spillway channel, resulting in reduction of the freeboard to 33.39 ft, according to FOCUS estimate
Gulmit village, headquarter of Gojal Tehsil, is covered by water from three sides Length of the lake has extended beyond Gulmit (17 km), reaching the outskirts of Hussaini village
Four Emergency Information Centers are being established in Hunza – Nagar under the leadership of District Administration
FOCUS is establishing an Information Cell in Islamabad and two in Gilgit
Camp management plans have been developed as part of the preparedness mechanism developed jointly by FOCUS and government of Pakistan
All schools have been closed in Hunza – Nagar district
FOCUS prepares disaster management teams in North America for the inevitable
Michael Kahlenberg leads FOCUS Regional Disaster Managers a tour of the Emergency Operations Center at the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Houston. Photo: Imran Jaffer
They strike suddenly — often with little or no warning — and are capable of overwhelming destruction.
Natural disasters caused by landslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, avalanches, floods, wind and ice storms can occur in any part of the world — North America is not immune. In April alone, 32 tornadoes were reported in Kansas, Colorado and Texas, while four major blizzards and winter storms impacted the mid-Atlantic and Eastern United States earlier this year. Just last November, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake rocked British Columbia. That same year, Ontario made headlines with 18 registered tornadoes in the span of one month.
These are all sobering reminders of the value and importance of being prepared. Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) — an international disaster planning, risk management and crisis response agency — conducted training conferences in disaster management leadership for its Regional Disaster Manager Teams (RDMTs) in Houston this February and two months later in Toronto. Titled Are we Ready?, the training prepared Regional Disaster Managers (RDMs) to respond effectively in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
Not if but when
Preparing for the unexpected:
A family takes lessons from a house fire
Confronted with a fire in their apartment complex in the middle of the night, a family’s quick thinking and presence of mind saved precious lives. The incident also illustrates the value of disaster preparedness.
The face of disaster — both natural and man-made — has greatly evolved over the years mainly due to climate change, unexpected weather patterns and increased political insecurity.
“Today, disaster management is a moving target with new kinds of threats emerging and new ways for mass populations to be affected,” said Rozmin Velani, a RDMT member for Southwestern United States. Ongoing training is essential to plan for and mitigate the risks confronting the community.
The conferences were conducted in partnership with the Ismaili Councils for Canada and the United States, and RDMTs in North America and Australia. As part of the training, each Regional Disaster Management Team assessed potential risks and threats specific to their geographic location.
“Disasters will happen, we just cannot predict when,” said Ghalib Kassam, Regional Disaster Manager for the Western United States. “So the question is not if a disaster will strike, it is when it will strike.”
When a disaster strikes, good planning makes all the difference. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) training sessions — which are ongoing across North America — enabled RDMTs to respond effectively to several disasters in 2009, including the California wildfires, a chemical fire in Texas and an apartment fire in Vancouver.
Learning from experience
Training session led by Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services in Canada. Photo: Michael Kahlenberg
Since its inception in 1994, FOCUS has been an active responder to disasters and emergencies. For instance, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the southern coast of the United States in August 2005, FOCUS volunteers and staff distributed clothes, basic amenities, and toys to young children and families to assist them in rebuilding their lives.
In September 2008, Hurricane Ike devastated the coastal areas of Texas, resulting in an evacuation order for nearly a million people. The Ismaili Council for the USA – South West region, and its local volunteer community-based crisis response team, mobilised human and physical resources to assist evacuees from the hurricane-affected areas.
“Hurricane Ike highlighted the vulnerability of the community,” said Velani. “The community is now interested in knowing more about the safety measures and government assistance programs in the event of such disasters.”
It takes time for the first responders to arrive at the affected area, and often neighbouring communities need to mobilise and provide assistance and relief. Trainers at the Houston and Toronto conferences stressed the importance of community preparedness. A review of CERT training, including fire drills and integral steps for other disaster scenarios was part of the conference.
Building regional capacity to respond
Nooruddin Karsan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of human resources firm Kenexa, leads an interactive training session on leadership development. Photo: Imran Jaffer
A key goal of the training is for RDMs and deputies to transfer their skills and knowledge to their regional teams and build capacity in their respective regions.
For Rahim Ladha, RDMT Deputy for Quebec and the Maritimes, Canada, the event helped bring together various concepts in disaster management and mitigation, technical knowledge on various disasters, and the roles and responsibilities of the government and other organisations. “The discussions behind specific disasters in recent history reinforces the important role of communities in disasters, in particular the critical function of rescuers during the response phase of a severe disaster,” he noted. “Another important take away for me was the fact that disaster management is as much about planning and mitigation as it is about responding to a disaster.”
Participant Rizwan Bhimani, a RDMT member for Southwestern United States spoke of the inspiration and encouragement emanating from the session. “It helped to see the kind of awareness FOCUS is creating. The path ahead is very long and not easy but it is good to see that FOCUS working with the local councils has initiated steps to create lasting impact through its various programs.”
Velani views being part of the RDMT as a unique form of voluntary service; she feels a sense of satisfaction from making a difference in people’s lives. Ladha agrees — serving the community through disaster preparedness and response is part of the ethics of Islam.
Canadian Regional Disaster Managers participate in a classroom discussion on incident management systems and the processes of an effective response during disasters. Photo: Michael Kahlenberg
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