Harpenden aid worker heads out to flood-stricken Pakistan

AID efforts to help those fighting for survival in the wake of the devastating Pakistan floods are being given a helping hand by a Harpenden man.

Jason Connolly, who works as a logistics officer for the Department of International Development (DFID), has flown out to Islamabad to help coordinate the delivery and transportation of tents, food, water and medicine to some of the estimated 14 million affected people.

He only found out at the last minute that he was needed in the country and quickly boarded a commercial flight to Dubai before travelling on an RAF plane carrying 500 tents to the stricken country, which has seen the death toll exceed 1,600 in the worst monsoon floods to hit in the last 80 years.

The UK’s DFID has so far provided assistance for more than 810,000 people and, with UNICEF, plans to provide around 136,000 hygiene kits, 4,560 toilets, 336,000 bars of sanitising soap, 270,000 buckets and 1,200,000 water purification tablets or sachets to help prevent further death and disease.

Irish-born Jason is also coordinating the distribution of a further 1,000 winterised tents for up to five people which will last at least a year, more than 9,000 shelter kits to repair homes or act as a standalone shelter, nearly 50,000 blankets and 24,000 water containers.

A �10-million project to provide new bridges to replace some of those washed away in the many towns and villages has also been brought forward.

Jason, 36, said: “Unfortunately the rain doesn’t seem to be abating and as each day comes by there is more flooding and more and more worry about dams breaking and flood barriers being breached, so towns and villages are still being evacuated.”

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Although mortality rates aren’t comparable, Jason, who is married with a young daughter, explained that the actual effect of the floods is bigger than both the Asian tsunami and Kashmir earthquake in 2005 which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

He continued: “Some people just have the shirt on their back and even though it’s not like the earthquake in terms of mortality rates, there are even more people in a situation where they need shelter, food and medicine. People have nowhere to sleep, their houses are lost and their livelihoods and crops have been washed away.”

Jason explained that those on the ground in the affected regions were carrying out assessments and feeding information through to the Pakistani government, DFID and other aid agencies about where and among whom the most urgent need for aid lies.

He stressed that such careful planning and coordination was essential rather than just throwing out aid which resulted in people fighting for supplies and, ultimately, the strongest among communities keeping it.

Jason said that the biggest problem facing the aid effort was accessing the communities cut off by the floods and supplies were often being transported by foot or donkey.

He is concerned that the international media hasn’t picked up on the severity of the crisis but he believes countries across the world are now ramping up their efforts and he expects to see even more involvement in the coming weeks.

Jason has been working on aid missions for more than 10 years and met his wife Nicola on a project in Kenya. He has been in his current role with the DFID for five years and during that time has travelled out to disasters including the Haiti earthquake, the Israel conflict and the Pakistan earthquake.

When back in England, he spends most of his time working out of London, coordinating the logistics of a wide range of projects and supply of aid to ongoing efforts.

Before heading out to Pakistan, Jason had been in the process of moving to a new home in Southdown and was in the final stages of completing a Master’s dissertation.

He expects to remain in Islamabad for another few weeks and hopes to be home in time for his daughter Ella’s second birthday on September 6.