Disaster Response: Deploying to Pakistan
In August 2010, Pakistan was hit by floods so severe that the country was reliant on outside help for months. Almost 2,000 people died, around 600,000 were cut off from the outside world, and more than two million lost their homes. Some 15 million people were affected overall. As the international community rallied to help, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) looked to Deutsche Post DHL Group’s Disaster Response Team (DRT) for assistance.
* Speedballs are tough DHL-courier bags filled with relief goods such as food and cooking utensils which can be air dropped to people in isolated areas.
The Disaster Response Team is part of the Group’s disaster management program GoHelp. Three regional teams – DRT Asia Pacific, DRT Americas and DRT Middle East and Africa – can field a pool of over 400 trained DHL-volunteers. After a natural disaster, they can provide logistical support at the local airport to prevent bottlenecks from incoming relief goods. After being called on by the UN, they can deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours.
“I’d really gone to Islamabad for the DRT press conference and planned to fly out the next day,” Talha says. “But when I heard the media briefing and learned about the situation, I just had to volunteer. I was the deployment communicator. I was fasting for Ramadan, so being out on the airfield all day in the scorching sun wasn’t easy. But knowing what we were doing would help hundreds of families kept me going. It was the most fulfilling job I’ve ever done.”
Cooperation and coordination
The teams’ activities are based on a long-standing partnership with UN OCHA and on agreements drawn up with national disaster management authorities. Once on site at the airport, the DRT sorts and repacks goods, stores them adequately and helps to load them for onward transportation. Thus, the team assists in the lifesaving task of getting supplies to people in need.
Since the DRT concept was introduced in 2005 to assist with the devastating earthquake at Bam in Iran, DPDHL Group’s Disaster Response Teams have managed the flow of thousands of tons of aid in 20+ deployments worldwide. In Pakistan, volunteers worked 35 days in truly debilitating heat and humidity. Aid agencies on the ground paid tribute, saying their services filled a serious capacity vacuum at the airport. But then, making disaster management more efficient and effective is what the DRTs are all about.