Mosques as emergency response centres.

Climate change is a major threat to mankind, and Pakistan is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to its effects. Some of the destruction caused due to global warming has become visible in the last few years in the form of severe heat waves (for example, Karachi in 2015) and heavy floods (2010 and 2022).

Mitigation and adaptation are the two parallel ways to address this issue globally. Given its high vulnerability to such disasters, Pakistan needs to take action to prepare for and become resilient to the destruction caused by these severe weather events, which are predicted to increase in intensity and frequency in the coming years.

Can mosques play a supporting role during such calamities by providing shelter and managing the urgent food, water and hygiene needs of its adjoining population? It is indeed possible to do so, provided a concerted effort is made to reorientate mosques to act as first responders during extreme climate events.

The ubiquitous nature of mosques in Pakistani society makes them an ideal resource for disaster management. According to the 2017 Census, there are over 100,000 mosques in the country. Nearly all of them are built on a self-help basis by the residents of the locality, and generous donations are made by the people both in building them and in their maintenance and upkeeping.

According to the 2017 Census, there are over 100,000 in the country, some of which can be repurposed as shelters in case of calamities

Usually, they have a covered area which is sufficient to provide standing room for residents of the locality during the Friday prayer congregation. Many of them have building structures with two levels and, in some cases, an additional level in the basement.

The first responders during large-scale catastrophes are usually government agencies and voluntary organisations that are spread throughout the country. However, it takes them substantial time to mobilise their workers to the disaster sites and, more importantly, to arrange food and other supplies for the disaster victims, while many of the victims may be dying.

On the other hand, mosques have the potential to provide the same service in a much shorter time as they are present in every locality of Pakistan. While mosques are viewed exclusively as places of worship, they have the potential to also serve as community centres in times of crisis through minimum alteration in their setups.

A large number of mosques have reliable water and gas supply...

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