Pakistan -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
THE MYRIAD LANDSCAPES OF Pakistan reveal a country of many contrasts, from coastal beaches on the Arabian Sea in the south to snow-covered mountain ranges in the north, including K-2, the world’s second highest peak. The south Asian nation, born out of partition from its giant neighbor, India, combines bustling cities with a countryside where traditions are slow to change.
Nearly two thirds of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Despite the country’s impressive economic growth in recent times, poverty is widespread. The chronically poor, comprising an estimated one-in- ten of the population, survive on as little as 374 Pakistani rupees (about US$6) a month. Many rural dwellers lack adequate access to basic services such as safe drinking water, primary health care, education and other social services.
Based on World Bank estimates, Pakistan needs a total of 1.5 million new homes a year. The housing shortage is acute in cities and towns where half of the population lives in slums or irregular settlements known as “katchi abadis”. United Nations research shows that the poor meet their housing demands by buying land from the informal sector and building structures incrementally, piece by piece, as they can afford.
Houses in Pakistan typically have walls made of baked or unbaked bricks, stone, wood or bamboo, while roofs may be made of reinforced cement concrete, cement or iron sheet, wood or bamboo, among others.
Habitat for Humanity Pakistan first began operating in Karachi city, southeastern Sindh province, in 2003. It was planning to expand its programs in the province when a massive earthquake struck close to Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, in October 2005. The tragedy killed some 73,000 people and left a further 2.8 million homeless.
Habitat moved its operations to the capital Islamabad to facilitate a disaster- response program in the worst-hit town, Balakot, in the North West Frontier province. In February 2006, a transitional shelter project was started to help earthquake victims living in tents. With funds from Habitat for Humanity International and other Habitat countries, the project enabled 400 families to be housed in shelters made of corrugated steel sheets and iron pipes. As the weather improved, the materials were re-used for more permanent homes.
A Habitat Resource Center was set up in Balakot, giving Habitat personnel the opportunity to assist more families. One service that proved popular was a Japanese-funded mobile sawmill service. The free service allows families to cut and trim wood including recycling timber from damaged homes. Recycling wood reduces house costs and lighter, more carefully used wood is less likely to hurt occupants in the event of another earthquake. In Abbotabad district, about 56 km. south of Balakot, the Pakistani government and UN-HABITAT are also supporting Habitat in training families to build homes that can withstand earthquakes.
In spite of the harsh mountainous terrain, Habitat volunteers, from South Korea, have helped with the earthquake rebuilding program.
• As of October 2007, a Habitat partnership with the Pakistan government and UN-HABITAT has trained more than 1,400 families to build earthquake-resistant homes in Abbotabad district, North West Frontier province.
• By June 2007, Habitat had provided free sawmill services to 3,000 earthquake-affected families.
• Sixteen South Korean volunteers helped earthquake-affected families to build 40 transitional shelters and 15 houses in January 2007. The volunteers also helped families to cut wooden beams using Habitat’s free sawmill services.
Population: 164.7 million (July 2007 est.)
Area: 803,940 sq km.
Ethnic groups: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun (Pathan), Baloch, Muhajir (immigrants from India at the time of partition and their descendants)
Languages: Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English, Burushaski and others 8%
Religions: Muslim 97% (Sunni 77%, Shi’a 20%), Christian, Hindu and others 3%
Updated November 2007