Flood Relief Operations 2022
When the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, visited Pakistan Air Force School in Risalpur on 13th April, 1948, he articulated these historic sentences: “There is no doubt that any country without a strong Air Force is at the mercy of any aggressor. Pakistan must build up her Air Force as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient Air Force Second to None and must take its right place with the army and the navy in securing Pakistan’s defence.” Since the Father of the Nation was well aware of the significance of an Air Force for the defence of the country, he wanted Pakistan to build a robust Air Force capable of competing with a power many times its size. This is the result of the Quaid’s illustrious vision that today Pakistan Air Force is counted amongst the world’s best Air Forces.
Since military organizations are well-suited to nation-building tasks owing to their immaculate training and discipline, the purpose of maintaining regular armed forces by any country is to not only to ensure national security but these institutions are often the first responders during natural calamities and disasters in addition to playing their critical role in nation building efforts. Ever since the inception of Pakistan, PAF has been actively involved in nation-building efforts; may it be the relief operations in the aftermath of natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, draughts or may it be contribution in sports, education, healthcare and establishing industry-academia linkage as per the Air Staff vision.
The torrential monsoon rains of 2022 triggered the most severe flooding in Pakistan’s recent history, washing away villages and leaving millions in dire need of lifesaving support, and at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition. Hundreds of thousands of homes were washed away while many public health facilities, water systems and schools were destroyed or damaged. The damage was almost unimaginable, hundreds of precious lives were lost. Likewise, floods destroyed thousands of houses and many low-lying villages were washed away. Flood water ruined all the standing crops too. The loss of lives, property, livestock and crops resulted in a catastrophe that is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan. All this situation brought a new series of challenges for the immediate rescue, relief and rehabilitation of the flood victims. As the floodwaters started to recede, the crisis transformed into an acute child survival crisis. Frail, hungry, children fighting a losing battle against severe acute malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, acute respiratory infections, and painful skin conditions were in dire need of support. Pakistan Air Force being the first responder to the call of the nation exhibited the fullest vigilance in helping the fellow country men in the hour of need.
Following the catastrophic destruction caused by floods, Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force issued the directives to establish the organizational setup for the swift assistance of the needy people. PAF took the lead and served the finest in performing all the assigned duties. For this purpose, all the operational and non-operational Air Bases of PAF were tasked to extend all out support to the flood victims during the testing times.
The directives of PAF’s leadership were very clear; No stone to be left unturned to provide Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation to the flood victims. Following the directives and keeping the tradition of serving the nation during natural calamities, Pakistan Air Force personnel came to the succor of the flood affected families of Naltar valley, KPK, South Punjab, Baluchistan and Sindh. Relief camps and field hospitals were immediately established in the flood affected areas with centralized command and control at Air Headquarters, Islamabad. Additionally, PAF Help Desk was established at Disaster Relief Cell for provisioning of relief and rescue related information. On the directives of the Air Chief, PAF Flood Relief Fund was also established which was judiciously utilized for rehabilitation of the flood victims. National ISR and Integrated Air Operations Centre (NIIAOC) was established at Air Headquarters, Islamabad worked round the clock to coordinate rescue and relief efforts in synchronization with all stakeholders. The centre also provided all out support to civil administration in the rehabilitation process.
At the field level, free medical facilities and medicines were provided to the affected populace round the clock in the field hospitals established by Pakistan Air Force. PAF Medical Lab collection points extended prompt sampling and diagnosis of the water-borne diseases amongst flood victims following which they were provided with free medical care at PAF field hospitals and medical camps. On the other hand, Emergency Response Teams of Pakistan Air Force extended all out support to the civil administration to provide the much needed medical, shelter and food facilities to ease the pain of the flood victims.
The Emergency Response Teams also evacuated several families to safe areas. Relief goods were flown to the areas, by PAF transport and helicopter fleet, which had been cut off by land routes and thus Pakistan Air Force established an air bridge to provide the much needed food and medical supplies. Despite the inclement weather the highly skilled PAF aircrew continued the relief operation to provide humanitarian assistance to the flood affectees. The relief operation by PAF aircrew was truly a practical manifestation of Pakistan Air Force’s resolve to extend all out support to fellow countrymen in the hour of need.
Approximately 33 million people got directly affected during the floods. Starting from June that continued till mid of September, heavy rains and floods claimed thousands of precious lives. The task of rehabilitation for PAF was huge. The foremost was of provisioning of food and shelter to the homeless people. PAF began to set up the tent cities and chose the suburbs of main cities for making these temporary colonies for the flood affectees. PAF while remaining cognizant of the situation established relief centres at various locations throughout the country with centralized command and control at Air Headquarters, Islamabad. A total of 54 flood relief centres and 03 central aviation hubs were established all across the country.
Pakistan Air Force Women Association (PAFWA) under the dynamic leadership of President PAFWA, Begum Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu joined by ladies of PAF Regional Air Commands, Chairpersons PAFWA at bases, PAC Kamra, PAF Academies and PAF Training Institutes established PAFWA Relief Camps at all the bases of Pakistan Air Force to collect donations and clothing items for those in need. Cash donations, clothing items, blankets and essential medical supplies were despatched in flood relief camps established by PAF throughout the country for further distribution amongst the needy. The vision of President PAFWA, active participation of the ladywives and overall generous spirit of PAF women community resulted in collection of Rs 32.516 Million in cash and 245,000 clothing items which were provided to ease the sufferings of the flood affectees.
As the flood water started to recede, maximum efforts were diverted towards the rehabilitation process of the flood affected populace and thus Pakistan Air Force distributed 02 months ration amongst the flood affectees enabling them to be self sufficient until the rehabilitation work was completed in flood hit zones. PAF personnel took unprecedented initiatives for the well being and timely provisioning of basic necessities of food, shelter, drinking water and medical assistance to the flood victims during the rehabilitation phase as well. While the situation of national level floods demanded great efforts and support for saving humanity, working shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan Air Force personnel, students of PAF Schools & Colleges too made indigenous efforts to bring cheers amongst the distressed children of flood affected areas. The PAF students came together to raise funds on their own to buy treats which included chocolates, sweets and stationary items for the brothers and sisters during the testing times. More than 20,000 packets comprising sweet treats were distributed in the flood affected areas which brought back the smiles on the faces of suffering children.
Owing to the floods one third of Pakistan went underwater. Food which is the first survival source got totally unavailable in the areas inundated in water. With passage of each passing day the situation continued to get worsen. Following the directives of PAF’s leadership, provisioning of food & drinking water was ensured in the flood affected areas and 4,847.02 tons of ration, 330510 litres of fresh/mineral water, 7529 tents and 1,284,486 food packs were distributed in various flood affected districts. Additionally, 21 tent cities were established where 19807 personnel have been accommodated. Pakistan Air Force also established the second largest tent city about 150 KM away from Karachi in collaboration with the Turkish relief agency AFAD. The family sized tent city comprised of 500 make-shift houses which have been improvised to shelter homes keeping the upcoming weather conditions in winter. PAF Emergency Response Teams were deployed in 30 districts which rescued 1521 stranded people till date. Additionally, PAF’s Air Mobility Command carried out 108 sorties of C-130 and 158 helicopter sorties to distribute ration all across the country. 46 Medical camps were established by PAF in which advanced and tertiary care was provided to 93,115 patients.
In the aftermath of the horrible floods, Pakistan Air Force personnel led from the front to come to the succor of the fellow countrymen. PAF has definitely appeared in lead to rebuild Pakistan. The natural calamity can be damaging but the determination to restructure is greater. The entire Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation operation by Pakistan Air Force personnel, wives and students of Fazaia Schools & Colleges is reflective of PAF’s resolve of being the first responder to the nation’s call wherein PAF has always stepped forward for the conduct of relief activities to alleviate the sufferings of those affected by disasters and natural calamities. Every single individual of PAF reiterates the pledge and resolve to defend sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, while continuing to play their role in Nation building efforts thereby truly earning the title of being the Sentinels in Sky.