Real-time response The ILO's role in helping Pakistan rebuild and get back to work

The ILO continues to play an important role in the earthquake recovery efforts in Pakistan. From establishing emergency employment centres and cash-for-work programmes to easing trauma through decent work, the ILO's multi-pronged approach capitalized on an existing infrastructure for technical cooperation to distribute resources quickly and efficiently.

ISLAMABAD - The October 2005 earthquake that shook Pakistan reduced whole cities to rubble, claimed more than 87,000 lives and affected more than 3 million people ( Note 1) - but it did not succeed in breaking the spirit of the men, women and children who survived the disaster. Hundreds of thousands of livelihoods were affected ( Note 2), and six months on there is still much to be done. But thanks in part to the ILO's Rapid Income Support through Employment (RISE) initiative, designed to quickly inject money back into local economies, those worst affected are being given a chance to rebuild their own lives with dignity. The programme was launched soon after the earthquake in close collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, and employers' and workers' organizations. The ILO was the first international agency to launch the cash-for-work programme, and the progress is heartening.

According to the ILO's initial assessment of the earthquake's impact on livelihoods, in conjunction with the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, the loss of jobs was far greater in the informal sector, representing close to 74 per cent, whereas the formal sector saw nearly 25 per cent job loss. There was a total of 62.1 per cent job loss across the affected population, the bulk of which took place in the agricultural sector.

The ILO's immediate response strategy was to redirect the activities of existing technical cooperation projects to distribute urgently needed aid and support to the greatest number of people, especially vulnerable groups such as children, women and the disabled. With the assistance of the Regional Office and ILO Headquarters in Geneva, internal resources were quickly mobilized to start cash-for-work programmes and establish skills development projects and emergency employment services.

Rising above

The RISE pilot project was initially rolled out in Balakot, one of the worst-affected areas, to get people back to work quickly and help them come out of post-disaster trauma. Nearly 45,000 workdays were generated not only to give employment to affected women and men but also to help in the rebuilding and recovery efforts. The programme introduced jobs such as cleaning of the camps, removal of debris from critical buildings and streets, repairing drainage lanes, building temporary shelters for displaced people and restoring basic services.

A programme to identify and register those affected was designed as part of the RISE programme. A database was created to catalogue jobseekers based on their skills and then to link them with employment opportunities based on the specific needs of the area. Two Emergency Employment Information Centres (EEICs) were established as a result, in Balakot and in Muzaffarabad. To date, over 6,000 people have been registered in different occupations and more than 150 have been linked with employment opportunities.

Skills development is another important component of the RISE programme, and the ILO designed and offered short-cycle, tailor-made skills training programmes to ensure the employment of the local population and, particularly, to avoid skilled labourers coming in from elsewhere. Many of the existing training centres were badly damaged or had collapsed, and so makeshift training centres were established in tents throughout the affected areas. The ILO has established three vocational training centres in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Bagh in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, local government departments, an international NGO and the National Rural Support Programme. Course offerings for men include masonry, carpentry, electrical construction work, plumbing and welding. There are also training courses on dress designing and sewing for women and repair of household appliances for disabled workers.

The RISE pilot programme was successful and received wide appreciation at both national and international levels. Most recently, in March, the ILO was recognized, among other UN agencies and NGOs, at a ceremony in Mansehra by the Pakistan Army for its work in affected areas. Based on a high number of requests, the programme was expanded to the crisis areas of Batagram, Muzaffarabad and Bagh.

Of the total number of people who were hired to work in the RISE programmes of Muzaffarabad and Bagh, about 30 per cent were women. A culturally sensitive approach was taken in this situation by appointing women supervisors for women workers, and families expressed appreciation of the ILO's sensitivity to cultural norms.

Building back better

The ILO has established strategic partnerships with several governments, constituents, UN agencies and NGOs. In particular, joint missions have been undertaken with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Department for International Development (DfID) and others to evaluate opportunities to help recover livelihoods in the affected areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP). These missions have resulted in a proposal to formulate a joint UN agencies programme.

One of the most important lessons learned by the ILO during the early recovery stage is that decent jobs should be created as an immediate and central need to generate income - and to give dignity back to the disadvantaged and affected families. Also, crises offer a unique opportunity to "build back better", laying a firm foundation for a more sustainable and crisis-resistant socio-economic community.

To that end, the ILO Islamabad office has compiled a specialized tool kit for use in disaster situations, highlighting the issue of creating sustainable livelihoods and employment in post-disaster affected areas, including cash-for-work and food-for-work programmes, public employment services, labour-based infrastructure projects, community contracting, vocational and skills training, women entrepreneurship and microfinance.

For more information, please contact the ILO Islamabad office at:
tel.: +9251/2276456-7; fax: +9251/2279181-2;
or e-mail:

33 tons of warm clothing collected by ILO Geneva staff for Pakistan quake victims

The ILO staff launched the initiative after seeing images of bare-foot children wandering in the snow four months after the earthquake. Other international agencies, the local Geneva population, schools and department stores joined in the initiative. Hundreds of cartons with shoes, anoraks, warm clothing and blankets were packed by volunteers in less than 48 hours.

The Swiss Development and Technical Cooperation Agency kindly arranged for the delivery of the clothing to the Chakala Air Base in Islamabad. The Director of the ILO Islamabad Office handed over the consignment to Pakistan's Federal Relief Commission in a simple ceremony. Officials of the Ministry of Labour were also present on this occasion. The Federal Relief Commission organized for the immediate distribution of the clothing via army helicopters to the worst-affected areas of North West Frontier Province and the Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. Colleagues at the ILO office in Islamabad and the Pakistani Office for Humanitarian Assistance also ensured distribution to those most in need.

"The success of this collection, which was meant to be a modest contribution to help Pakistanis suffering from the extreme winter in the Himalayas, went far beyond our expectations," said Zohreh Tabatabai, Director of the ILO Department of Communication and Public Information, which initiated the collection.

Note 1 - Estimates from the Government of Pakistan on 11 November 2005.

Note 2 - Note 2 - Provisional estimates by the ILO immediately after the earthquake indicated that up to 1.1 million people may have lost their livelihoods in the 13 districts around the earthquake epicentre.