Rescue 1122, CSOs and communities in Muzzafargarh team up to avert and face emergencies.
A strategic goal of Plan International Pakistan’s programming is strengthening Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and developing the capacities of communities with a special focus on young people and children. One direct result of investing in CSOs and communities is the relationship that has developed between Rescue 1122 – a provincial Emergency Response (ER) department, CSOs based in Muzzafargarh and the local community.
Plan International Pakistan, in line with its goal to empower local organisations, donated 4 motor boats and 12 life jackets to a local CSO in Muzzafargarh District, the Social Youth Council of Patriots (SYCOP) through its partner, the Rural Development Policy Institute (RDPI). SYCOP in turn donated the boats and life jackets to Rescue 1122.
Before the flood waters hit, residents of vulnerable villages whom Plan has been supporting in developing early warning systems and evacuation, contingency plans and village committees reached out to local CSOs and Rescue 1122 for help and information. The life boats provided by Plan International and manned by Rescue 1122 staff did search and rescue duty during this stage and proved invaluable in reaching stranded villagers in hard to reach areas. Rescue 1122 evacuated more than 20,000 people before and after the floods struck.
After the flood water had raged through the District, flooding villages, displacing people and laying waste to anything in its path, the boats were also used for emergency transport, ferrying people to and from areas cut off by the water. Rescue 122 since its nascent years in the District has had the support of local CSOs to cope with floods. Since Muzzafargarh, along with other areas of south Punjab, is a disaster prone area, the relationship is a very important one: “The population of the District is significant and our resources are limited,” says Dr. Irshad Ullah, district emergency officer, Rescue 1122. “The contributions of CSOs play a significant role in times of emergencies,” he adds.
Rescue 1122 also banks on the deep understanding that SYCOP and other CSOs have of the local community and the special relationship they enjoy. Rescue 1122 also believes in empowering communities. When Plan’s Safer Schools project was initiated in the area, Rescue 1122 talked to children in schools about first-aid, how to react in emergencies, and designed evacuation drills for them. The Department also works with village committees to set up effective early warning systems, and on the recommendation of SYCOP trained swimmers in the five most vulnerable villages to
rescue people from drowning.
As a direct result of including communities in decision making, the ER department has earned the trust and support of the very communities they help: “People are always willing to lend a hand to us,” says Obaid Ullah, emergency officer, Rescue
During the search and rescue phase, the Rescue 1122 team came across a woman well into her pregnancy (seated top left) and close to her due date. Doctors in the District Headquarters (DHQ) hospital and another local hospital had earlier refused her treatment because of complications with her pregnancy; the baby needed to be delivered by C-section and they were not equipped to perform the procedure. Using one of the life boats she was evacuated from her village to a safe spot from where she was transported to Nishtar Hospital in Multan – a hospital from where she wouldn’t be turned away.