22 September 2022
By Rehan Piracha
The government has granted permission to 23 international non-government organisations (INGOs) to work for relief and rehabilitation in flood-hit areas amid a call for lifting a ban on relief organisations expelled from the country in 2018.
The federal government allowed all local NGOs to participate in relief activities in flood-hit areas last month while it also appealed to foreign NGOs operating inside the country to assist with relief and rehabilitation activities. The Edhi Foundation had urged the government to lift a years-old ban on a number of international non-governmental organisations so they can help with relief efforts following catastrophic floods.
“I appeal to the government to immediately lift the ban on the international NGOs for one year so they could help people,” Faisal Edhi, chief of the Edhi Foundation, said in a press conference in Karachi on September 2.
In 2018, Pakistan expelled 18 INGOs on the basis of new and stricter laws relating to foreign relief and charity organisations. However, Faisal Edhi said the banned INGOs should be allowed to return.
Speaking in the Spotlight show with Munizae Jahangir on September 21, Faisal Edhi said the international community had not been able to provide as much help in these floods as compared to the floods in 2010 and the earthquake in 2005 because many donor countries do not have the presence of their relief agencies in Pakistan.
“In 2010, around 60 countries had pledged assistance to Pakistan whereas only 12 countries have sent aid this time,” he said. In 2010, major international donor countries had presence of their NGOs in Pakistan which collaborated with local partners for relief and rehabilitation activities, he added.
Faisal Edhi said many INGOs from donor countries had left Pakistan due to the mistreatment in the last four years. He also revealed that many local NGOs involved in flood relief activities have complained to him that the government was delaying funds they had received from donors abroad.
“The funding from donors is being released to NGOs after 10 to 15 days which has severely affected their relief activities in flood-hit areas,” he added.
Speaking in the same show, Farrukh Saleem, a former spokesperson on energy and economy of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, said the drop-in assistance to Pakistan was because of donors’ fatigue and a lack of transparency.
“Major donors are focused on sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine, leaving little space for assisting Pakistan to deal with the devastation caused by floods,” he explained. Similarly, there was a huge issue of transparency in how the relief assistance would be spent and managed in Pakistan, he added.
Faisal Edhi also called on the government to allow the import of medicines and relief items from India as these were in short supply and their costs had nearly tripled in recent months.
According to officials in the Interior Ministry, INGOs require special permission to work in flood-hit areas in the country.
“A total of 23 INGOs have been granted no-objection certificate (NOC) to operate in relief and rehabilitation activities in flood-affected areas,” officials in the interior ministry told Voicepk, adding that no organisation applying for the NOC has been refused permission.
According to the Interior Ministry’s website, a total of 103 INGOs are on the approved list for operations in the country. Around 85 INGOs have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government. The interior ministry is still processing cases of 20 INGOs for approval. The Interior Ministry officials said INGOs whose cases are under process could also apply for permission to work in relief activities in flood-devastated areas in the country. Close to 172 INGOs have applied for registration with the Interior Ministry.
The government is struggling to respond to the current floods given their unprecedented magnitude. International NGOs were active on the ground when Pakistan was hit by floods in 2010 and a devastating earthquake in 2005 and played an important role in relief and rehabilitation work.
Mohammed Tahseen, Executive Director of SAP Pakistan, said that around 48 local NGOs were working in flood-relief activities in Sindh. Tahseen, who recently from flood-hit districts in Sindh, said the situation was very grim. “Pakistan needs all the help it can get including that from international relief organisations,” he said.
Tahseen said certain foreign relief organisations have started work in flood-hit regions while others were awaiting funds for relief operations, adding that the government appealed to foreign NGOs this month while it had allowed local NGOs in August.
In a statement, the United Nations’ children’s fund (Unicef) regretted that its funding appeal of $39 million for Pakistan’s flood-hit children is still less than a third funded and that needs of the children will only continue to grow.
According to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), 1,559 people, including 551 children and 318 women, have been killed in rains and floods in the country.