ISLAMABAD - The World Food Programme (WFP) is executing a mega project costing $17 million to establish eight warehouses in natural disaster-prone areas of the country to ensure swift emergency and disaster response in case of any hazards.

The network of Humanitarian Response Facilities (HRF) is being developed in seven strategic locations of the country to augment the government’s warehouse capacity available for pre-positioning non-food and food items for emergency response in relief activities. The warehouses are being established in Muzaffarabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Quetta and Gilgit as one such facility has already been opened in Muzaffargarh by the WFP.

The locations for warehouses were selected based on evidence from previous natural disasters, population centers, and with a view to enhancing emergency preparedness and response capabilities, Lola Castro, Representative and Country Director, WFP Pakistan told APP.The project would be accomplished by 2015, she said. Lola said the first five sites are expected to be constructed in 2015 while the rest would be subject to the availability of suitable locations and receipt of additional funds as the current shortfall was US$6 million.

Lola Castro said recurring natural disasters in Pakistan substantiate the need to strengthen the country’s emergency disaster preparedness and response capacity at all levels.

“The priority for WFP and partners through these on-going efforts is to establish a humanitarian warehousing network in the country to ensure a fast, effective and reliable logistics response mechanism at district level and, alongside the Government of Pakistan, to protect and empower communities most at risk”.

She said WFP aims at assisting 8.3 million people between 2013 and 2015 at a total cost of US$535 million seeking, amongst others, to improve economic opportunities and promote social inclusion in FATA, boost community resilience in disaster-prone areas, and address nutrition and education in the country.

The land for all these warehouses is being provided by the government of Pakistan, Lola added. The warehouses would facilitate the affected community during the disasters situation, said Chairman, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Major General Muhammad Saeed.

He said Pakistan has a long history of being severely affected by natural disasters and the warehouse is being established to strengthen the disaster preparedness and emergency response capacity of the country immediately.

The recently opened warehouse at Muzaffargarh will serve as a logistics base for Southern Punjab, a flood prone area and has an overall storage capacity of 3,200 tons, he added. Among others, the facility includes climate-controlled area for temperature sensitive items with a capacity of 200 tons and the structure is earthquake resistant and other environmental hazards have also been factored into the construction, Chairman maintained.

Muzaffargarh HRF will serve as a logistics base for Southern Punjab, a flood prone area where approximately 25 percent of the Pakistani population lives, he said. A second facility (currently under construction) in northern Punjab (Lahore) will cover an area where over 30 percent of the country’s population resides, Chairman added.

The project is being implemented in close coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan with generous funding provided by the government and the people of Japan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States of America.