Every flood relief camp we've visited has been set up differently, and it's intriguing to speculate how much the design impacts the camp's effectiveness. Two we visited today appeared to have a dramatically better atmosphere than either the tented villages we saw in Punjab or the school-based camps in Shikarpur and Sukkur.
Was it caused by:
- different tent design?
- different tent layout (circular instead of row after row)?
- existence of a large communal area?
- provision of rations to be cooked, vs cooked food?
- easy access to clean water on demand?
- good latrines at decent distance from the camp?
- toys or other activities for the children?
Or perhaps it was more down to other causes like whether the residents shared common language and tribal loyalties, and whether they had been able to bring with them belongings like mattresses. cooking utensils, spare clothes and their animals.
I suspect there is no shortage of knowledge on most of these issues, it's just not as widely circulated as it might be, and much of it has to be rediscovered by a new set of local NGOs every time there's a new disaster.
Here are some rough and ready impressions on two of the camps we visited today. The first was striking for its design of two groupings of about 50 tents each situated around a large open communal space. It seemed to really work, and even though the residents had arrived just four days earlier, they seemed incredibly well settled in. One key difference. They had been able to bring their livestock with them, so during the day, the men were fully occupied, taking them to graze. At other camps, with all their livestock gone along with everything else, there was an air of utter despondency.
Rashid Bhajwa, whose remarkable non-profit, the National Rural Support Organization, was running this camp - and dozens of others, told me they'd found that 100 families was a magic number for relief camps, keeping them at human scale. They had happened on the circular design, saw its effectiveness, and had tried to incorporate it whenever space allowed. Across Pakistan his organization had created camps and food provisions for more than 140,000 displaced people.
Traveling with us was a dynamic Pakistani entrepreneur Adnan Asdar who has built a series of logistics companies, but in times of disaster drops everything to work on relief. In conjunction with another nonprofit the Karachi Relief Trust, he has been setting up a dozens of camps, bringing in clean water via a series of Life Straw gravity powered filters and creating facilities to provided cooked food for all residents. Here they are in action:
There we also met a dozen student volunteers from Karachi University, assisting in putting up tents and digging latrines. Small touches like the provision of cricket and soccer equipment add to the sense of an organization going above and beyond. After the terror of the march away from the inrushing water, these places seemed like extraordinary safe-havens. And although some tents and equipment had been donated from overseas, all the internal logistics were Pakistani-managed. Daunting, but hugely impressive.
Chris Anderson • TED Curator • www.ted.com • "Ideas Worth Spreading"