How the National Humanitarian Network in Pakistan continues the work of Start Network in strengthening local capacity

Here we talk with Sana Zulfiqar who told us about the continuation of the work of the DEPP and how it has led to new initiatives in Pakistan and the wider region. Sana has been able to push forward many of the Start Networks initiatives in…


Time to read: 5 minutes

Area of work:

Sana Zulfiqar is a communications person with 10 years’ experience in humanitarian disasters. She has worked for seven years for the National Humanitarian Network (NHN) in Pakistan, a forum which focuses on coordination/networking, policy and procedural engagement, capacity building and knowledge management. As well as being the National Humanitarian Coordinator and leading the NHN secretariat team, she is also coordinating the Pakistan Resilience Partnership (PRP), that connects those in the government, civil society, private sector, academia and media to build networks of local actors and strengthen their capacity on preparedness and response in a coordinated way.

Here we talk with Sana on the work that NHN has done with the Start Network, initially with the DEPP programme and then more recently with the Start Fund.  She told us about the continuation of the work of the DEPP and how it has led to new initiatives in Pakistan and the wider region. Sana has been able to push forward many of the Start Networks initiatives in localisation and “shifting the power”.


Can you tell us something about the DEPP project initiatives that are still ongoing in Pakistan?

The first example is SERT – the Surge Emergency Response Team. This was the main objective of the Transforming Surge Capacity Project (TSCP) project led by ActionAid in Pakistan, and the NHN continues to manage this roster of humanitarian experts long after the project ended. We regularly share information with the roster on humanitarian issues in-country, link them with major stakeholders and try to engage them in possible consultancies and other opportunities for jobs and trainings. We recently launched our volunteer initiative, which is NHN Volunteers – Stronger Together, and one objective is to encourage our SERT members to work on their capacity building with NHN support, coordination and cooperation among both groups and formation of volunteer committees.

We also established a Digital Resource Centre under DEPP, a forum that is still active and continuously providing information to the humanitarian community. We share information from the government, INGOs, national NGOs, NHN and relevant forums such as the Start Network, NEAR network and ICVA. This includes databases, manuals, funding opportunities, webinars and training sessions.

There is also information flow in the region through the Asian Preparedness Partnership (APP), established through a partnership between the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center and NHN. The aim is to improve the preparedness and emergency response to disasters in Asia by strengthening humanitarian leadership and technical capacity of National Governments, Local Humanitarian and private sector organizations so that they can lead and better engage in the humanitarian framework. The initiative is in process in Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan (tilted as PRP), Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The APP is managing a similar model to the one we developed with the Start Network, with information being pooled from 6 countries.  They are also in the process of developing a roster, which is based on the model of SERT. We are supporting APP at the regional level and PRP at country level in this initiative, building on the DEPP work from 2018 and ensuring that resources are maximised.

“This illustrates that the products of the DEPP project are not only still evident but are also serving as a role model for more initiatives in the region.”

The Start Networks “Shifting the power” project under DEPP was also highly influential. It raised the profile of localisation and this work did not stop after the project ended. Localisation remains a priority for NHN. Shifting the Power consortia signed commitments with us aligned with the Charter4change and contextualised for our setting. NHN is continuously perusing the initiative with the signatories through different activities in Pakistan. 


Have you had any other interaction with the Start Network since the close of the DEPP project?

We are still working with the Start Network.  We received funding through the Start Network via Acted to help work on the coordination of the response for the Mirpur earthquake.  NHN communicated the needs of local communities and response capacities of government and NGOs and vice versa. NHN also arranged a National Conference, serving as a forum for stakeholders reflecting on the earthquake response.  This conference was effective by providing a platform to all actors (UN, INGOs, NGOs, government actors) to provide their observations and share technical experience. The applied coordination mechanism, comprising of the district government and NHN, presenting civil society, supported timely, targeted and qualitative response and was appreciated by all stakeholders during the conference. Based on these consultations the plan was streamlined and local stakeholders also were trained in emergency response mechanisms. Based on the outcomes, a learning initiative has been initiated to explore further lessons learnt, contextual and institutional set-ups, best practices and gaps, and capitalize on success factors to feed into a model for localized coordination mechanisms for medium-scale disasters in Pakistan. Coordination structure, actors and activities will be documented. A series of learning exchange events, interviews and discussion rounds will be conducted to document learning, as well as gaps and future requirements. A stakeholder mapping will be produced to be used during future response and as a sample for other mechanisms. The model approach will be shared during a national dissemination event with stakeholders capable of replication. This model shall foster NHN’s work on localization further.

“NHN would like to work closely with Start Network in the future as well to build on what has been initiated to ensure an effective, sustainable and accountable humanitarian system in country led by local leaders. “

Read more information on the products of the Start Networks DEPP project in Pakistan: the SERT roster; and the digital resource centre.

Read more about the Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme.