One Year After the Pakistan Floods: How JICA’s Cooperation Resulted in a Swift Response and is Helping Develop Future Risk Reduction Plans
Between June and August of 2022, intermittent monsoon rains in Pakistan —the heaviest in the country’s history—resulted in severe flooding, impacting an estimated 33 million people. There were unforgettable scenes of people left in despair, their homes destroyed and their lands, as well as their vast fields awaiting harvest, covered with muddy water as far as the eye could see. People in socially vulnerable positions, such as those known as Female Home-Based Workers (*1), whom JICA had been supporting, found themselves in particularly challenging circumstances, having suffered significant losses, including their homes. In the wake of the floods, however, JICA was able to leverage the collaborative networks that had been built to offer rapid support to these vulnerable individuals. One year after the floods, JICA is accelerating efforts to mitigate flood risks, aiming to prevent future disasters and support the economic development of Pakistan.
*1... Female Home-Based Workers engage in the production of goods or provision of services within their households to earn income. Due to religious and cultural practices, a large percentage of Pakistani women, especially those who live in rural areas, have limited opportunities for employment outside the home, resulting in a higher proportion of them engaging in home-based work. These Home-Based Workers, however, are not protected by labor laws and often face challenging issues such as exploitation and poor working conditions.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority of Pakistan, an estimated 33 million people—or about 15 percent of the country’s population—were affected by the floods, and an estimated 2.3 million houses were completely or partially destroyed. Rural areas of Sindh Province in southeastern Pakistan were especially devastated by the disaster. The province experienced torrential rains, even in areas that typically experience little precipitation. In fact, the month of August saw about eight times as much rain compared to that of an average year.
A woman sits in front of a collapsed house (Sukkur, Sindh Province).
Since 2017, JICA has assisted with the Women Development Department (WDD) in Sindh Province to support Female Home-Based Workers in the acquisition of the necessary knowledge and skills to improve their livelihoods. These women also suffered greatly from the recent disaster. In August 2022, the Pakistani government declared a state of emergency in response to the flooding. However, even before that, the Sindh Rural Support Organization (SRSO), the local NGO collaborating with JICA on the project, had already alerted the project staff to the unusually heavy rainfall occurring in Sukkur and its surrounding areas, where the project was being implemented. To respond to the voices of women pleading, "We need help, our houses have been swept away," the team quickly and voluntarily pooled their funds and initiated the distribution of food and essential supplies to those in need.
Hajani Maher and other SRSO staff members actively participated in the emergency relief efforts alongside the project staff. "We began our relief efforts immediately after the disaster, but we faced difficulties such as road closures due to heavy rains and roads collapsing and nearly giving way due to the floods. My own house was also affected, and my family told me, ‘This is no time to be helping people when our own house has been destroyed,’ but I couldn’t choose inaction when others were facing more dire situations," said Maher.
Amidst the delayed arrival of government assistance, the support was a true lifeline for the victims. As the weather improved and the waters began to recede, mosquitos became rampant, leading to the wide spread of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. In response, as part of the project activities, staff provided supplies tailored to the local conditions on the ground, which therefore included mosquito nets.
(Left) Hajani Maher, an SRSO member, distributing emergency relief supplies to affected Female Home-Based Workers immediately after the flooding. (Right) Women receiving emergency relief supplies including food and other items.
The swift assistance tailored to local needs was a product of the trust built over years of collaboration with the SRSO and the female participants of the project.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the project has been providing women with training sessions on digital marketing, enabling them to broaden the market reach for their handicrafts through platforms such as social media. The combination of this digital training and the ongoing communication efforts proved invaluable in sending out emergency messages during the disaster. Equipped with smartphone communication skills learned from the training, the women promptly sent real-time videos and photos of the on-site situation to the project staff immediately after the flood.
Women learning to operate a smartphone as part of digital marketing training (the session in the photo was conducted before the flood).
JICA expert Mamiya Chiyo (Kaihatsu Management Consulting) says, "It was difficult to obtain information about the flood damage at the time, but thanks to the women’s communication efforts, we were able to understand the on-site situation and provide swift support."
One of the individuals who provided updates on the situation in the affected village was Irshaad Shahnawaz. She actively participated in the digital training program and acquired proficiency in smartphone operations. Since she had one of the three smartphones distributed in the village, she played an active role as a communication coordinator during the flood. "The flood caused most houses to collapse and roads to be cut off, and because of that we didn’t have food and we were extremely nervous, but support came quickly, and plastic sheets were distributed to help us shelter from the wind and rain. The distribution of blankets and sanitary kits was also very helpful." (Irshaad Shahnawaz)
Irshaad Shahnawaz, who used her smartphone to report on the situation in her village during the disaster.
The project resumed digital training and literacy education around October 2022. The women have been moving forward with a positive outlook, using the income-generating skills they acquired through the project to help rebuild their lives. A large exhibition was also held by the SRSO in the provincial capital, Karachi, so that the women could sell their handicrafts and secure income. The project, having lasted for about six years, will come to an end this December, and Mamiya is dedicating her efforts to laying the groundwork for the future, saying, "We’re discussing with the WDD, the implementing agency, how more women can acquire similar skills.”
(Left) An exhibition and sale of handicrafts held in Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province, in February 2023. (Right) Female participants in the project working on their handicrafts.
In addition to this project, JICA continues to provide recovery and reconstruction support in various fields across Pakistan, including education, healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure development. In terms of the education field, JICA has initiated the reconstruction of primary schools that were affected by the floods. Despite approximately 27,000 schools in Pakistan being impacted by the floods, the school facilities whose construction was supported by JICA in Sindh Province—after taking into account the lessons learned from flood damage in 2010—successfully avoided significant damage through certain measures, such as setting floor heights higher than past flood levels and designing the buildings to be earthquake resistant. JICA’s disaster mitigation efforts and achievements were highly lauded by the Pakistani government. As a result, JICA was subsequently requested to assist in the restoration of other schools that were damaged by the 2022 floods and to share its expertise in building disaster-resilient schools.
A girls’ elementary school in Sindh Province built with JICA’s assistance. It was used as an evacuation center as it avoided serious damage from the flooding.
JICA has been working since before the recent floods to initiate cooperation that will promote pre-disaster investment in disaster risk reduction. The economic growth of Pakistan has been closely centered around the Indus River, which flows through the country and spans about 3,000 kilometers. With a history of repeated flooding, strengthening the flood control capacity of the Indus River is one of the most crucial challenges in supporting the country’s development and growth.
In the immediate aftermath of the recent floods, JICA participated in the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and helped identify the direction of necessary cooperation. Specifically, JICA pointed to “the importance of pre-disaster investment in disaster risk reduction,” which is something the agency has been advising the government of Pakistan on. One example is the launch of a new form of technical cooperation that aims to strengthen the Indus River’s dyke management capacity. The project will also analyze the impact of climate change on recent floods in Pakistan and survey the current status of dykes in order to improve Pakistan’s flood control capacity.
In March 2023, a seminar on climate change impacts and dyke maintenance was conducted with the Pakistani government, along with experts from Japan in the fields of climate change and flood control.
This cooperation is JICA’s first form of "Technical Cooperation for Disaster Response.” JICA introduced this new initiative last year to provide rapid assistance in responding to emergencies such as natural disasters and infectious diseases. Typically, technical cooperation requires a certain period of study and preparation, including preliminary surveys, upon request from the counterpart government. However, this technical cooperation for disaster response was able to significantly shorten that process by leveraging past collaboration with JICA, allowing for a swift and responsive approach to meet the immediate needs on the ground.
As the frequency of natural disasters resulting from extreme weather events rises globally, the ongoing initiatives in Pakistan are expected to bolster the accumulation of knowledge in disaster preparedness and response, enabling better preparedness for future disasters.