Shahzad Sharjeel (051) 2279641
Erik Nora (202) 458-4735
WASHINGTON, Tuesday, October 11, 2005 – Respectful of the grim rescue operation that will continue in earthquake-hit South Asia for days to come, the World Bank is scrambling teams of disaster reconstruction experts and immediately available money, doubling its initial commitment to hardest-hit Pakistan to US$40 million. This amount could run to hundreds of millions in the longer term.
“We will do whatever it takes to support the longer-term reconstruction but right now what counts is supporting the Government of Pakistan in getting some short-term money in so that cash can flow into the affected areas to support temporary shelter, fuel for the imminent winter and household livelihoods,” said Praful Patel, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region.
Also critical at this early stage was cooperation and coordination among donors, said Patel. Bilateral and multilateral agencies have been meeting in Islamabad, expressing their commitment to work together under the leadership of the Government of Pakistan in response to its call for assistance. The Bank has committed its experts to the United Nations disaster assessment team in the interests of a seamless damage and needs assessment.
“When a government is dealing with a disaster on this scale, of course the medics and the sniffer dogs must come before the bricks and mortar of reconstruction,” said Patel. “But planning for the transition from relief to reconstruction must also begin with urgency now, especially as the areas hard hit move into the cold of winter. Millions of people need, in the very short term, to see some supporting structures being put into place, even if these are temporary.”
The Bank’s initial funding will be redirected from projects in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Azad Jammu and Kashmir and amount to about US$40 million. The money could be used for cash grants to affected families, to support infrastructure clearance, health needs, getting children back into makeshift schools and making temporary shelters available. Longer-term reconstruction funding will be determined by a needs assessment, and the Bank’s contribution could be expected to run into hundreds of millions of dollars, said Patel.
The eventual amount of World Bank funding needed would be determined by the Government of Pakistan and would of course also depend on other sources of funding available, including the generosity of private donations.
Much of the recovery effort will also engage nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local government bodies which have experience in the damaged areas. The Bank supports the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund which channels money to communities countrywide through a network of NGOs which work closely with communities building small-scale infrastructure and businesses based on micro-finance. These same NGOs networked across the rural areas will now be well-placed to help communities build back.
The Government of India, engaged in relief operations in its affected areas, has not yet asked the Bank for support to reconstruction needs but the Bank stands ready to respond if needed, said Patel.