Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR
Across Europe, the world’s finest football teams often sport morally reprehensible betting companies and loan sharks abreast their jerseys. Fans across Europe not only accept but also expect trading moral integrity for financial gain. In December 2022, Nottingham Forest Football Club decided that its football players would wear the crimson-red Garibaldi symbol of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) on their shirts in the premier league to advocate for global change. Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR have forged a partnership that could raise expectations of sporting institutions across Europe.

About the UNCHR

Since its foundation in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has provided aid to refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and those without a state to call home. The UNCHR is the largest and most significant NGO to wage war against the displacement of the persecuted.

The Issue of Displacement

Despite forward momentum in many socio-economic issues across the globe, there is unprecedented displacement in both the developed and undeveloped worlds. For the first time in recorded history, approximately half of the displaced individuals reside in urban areas.

Displacement occurs due to conflict, violence and persecution, which are all abundant in the modern world. There are active armed conflicts in Palestine, Ukraine and Afghanistan, mass human rights violations in Myanmar and ongoing genocide in China. Consequently, 2021 yielded the highest number of forcibly displaced people the world has witnessed since World War II. Indeed, 89.3 million people forcibly fled their homes in 2021.

How the UNCHR Provides Shelter

As of 2022, more than 6.6 million refugees are living in camps, demonstrating how homelessness manifests as a result of displacement. Whilst camps can provide decent emergency shelters, issues such as isolation, aid dependency, disease, fire, sanitation and personal safety arise.

When all other solutions have been exhausted, the UNCHR constructs settlements for displaced individuals. The UNCHR has formulated a master plan approach, which strives to provide shelter that does not fall foul of the previously stated risks. Well-planned settlements are not prone to fire or disease outbreaks, as sanitation and spacing are well-managed. Food, water, toilets and medical care are all within walking distance of a resident of the ideal settlement. Footpaths should always be well-lit, as there is also a particular emphasis on safety for women.

To avoid the risks that encumber vast refugee camps and settlements, the UNCHR distributes tents and materials from centers in Dubai, Copenhagen and Durban. It also invests in communal shelters and new homes. Furthermore, the UNCHR provides self-help schemes that assist displaced individuals in reconstructing and constructing new homes.

The UNCHR in Pakistan

When a barrage of severe flooding struck Pakistan in late 2022, the UNCHR sprung into action. The enormous monsoon impacted the lives of 33 million Pakistani people, killing more than a thousand. Those who remained faced the grim prospect of homelessness during a natural disaster, as the flood destroyed 300,000 homes and damaged 650,000 more.

During the aftermath, the UNCHR coordinated closely with Pakistani authorities. Tireless UNCHR volunteers helped distribute some 10,000 tents to the devastated Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan regions. The UNCHR has pledged to assist 50,000 households by providing shelter, food and clean water to the most vulnerable victims of this disaster. In addition to providing immediate relief, the UNCHR is liaising with local authorities to build up stockpiles of essential amenities should the flooding escalate.

Why the Partnership Between Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR is One to Celebrate

Fans of Nottingham Forest should be proud of their club. Sitting in the Trent End or the Brian Clough Stand, they will see the UNCHR featured on red banners, screens and flags. They will hear the announcer pay tribute to the refugees of Pakistan and elsewhere. But most importantly, the 4.7 billion fans who tune in to watch the premier league will see a football club that proudly uses its enormous platform to fight against poverty. If every football team in team Europe were to trade a sponsor for a charity of the UNCHR’s merit, billions of people would have exposure to charitable causes daily. Indeed, if every team in every sport were like-minded, the televised sport could become a vehicle for enormous social change. In the meantime, fans of positive change can celebrate that Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR are making a start.

– David Smith
Photo: Flickr

Flood Crisis in Pakistan
In 2022, Pakistan experienced severe, unprecedented flooding. Floods submerged fields, crops and villages underwater and completely destroyed homes and public buildings. While the flooding in Pakistan has devastated the country as a whole, it has had an especially severe impact on children. Currently, UNICEF estimates there are about 10 million children in need of lifesaving support as a result of the floods.

Background

Pakistan’s monsoon season began in June 2022 and has impacted all four provinces. As of November 18, 2022, the floods had affected more than 33 million people, killing close to 2,000 people. Previously, in 2010, Pakistan experienced another period of severe flooding. The situation then warranted a significant international response. At that time, the flooding was thought to be the worst there had ever been but the Center for Disaster Philanthropy reports that Pakistani authorities say that the flooding of 2022 surpasses the 2010 situation in severity. Further reports estimate that more than 20 million people need aid as a result of the flooding and that multidimensional poverty could increase by almost 6%. Additionally, the flood crisis in Pakistan has affected the food security of millions, killed more than 1 million livestock, damaged large percentages of rice and cotton crops and displaced almost 8 million people.

Specific Concerns for Children

As of early January 2023, the flood crisis in Pakistan threatens the lives and well-being of close to 10 million children. Out of them, about 4 million children are especially vulnerable, due to living near polluted or stagnant flood waters. UNICEF reports that the rates of acute respiratory infections for children living in these areas have risen rapidly. Additionally, the rates of severe acute malnutrition for children in these same areas have also increased drastically. The onset of severe winter weather further heightens these two factors. Abdullah Fadil, the UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, notes in a statement, “Severe acute malnutrition, respiratory and water-borne diseases coupled with the cold are putting millions of young lives at risk.”

A major increase in food insecurity further complicates the problems of malnutrition and respiratory diseases in children in Pakistan. As the floods destroyed large amounts of crops and livestock, food insecurity numbers have reached emergency levels in some parts of the country, which may have long-term implications for children who are already malnourished. The floods also damaged many water supply systems and sanitation facilities, leaving children with no access to clean water. Furthermore, flooding destroyed many public health buildings, making access to medical care and treatment difficult or impossible for many children. While many of the issues that children in Pakistan face are treatable, like malnutrition, the lack of access to treatment makes their situation much more serious.

Solutions

As winter is in full swing, immediate action and aid are necessary to save the lives of children who the flood crisis in Pakistan impacted. UNICEF, for example, has been on the ground, providing emergency supplies, screening children for malnutrition and immunizing children against polio. The organization has appealed for $173.5 million to provide support for women and children in Pakistan. As of January 9, 2023, this appeal has only been 37% funded.

As Pakistan is one of the world’s most vulnerable nations in regard to changing weather patterns, with warming rates significantly above the average level, extreme weather conditions like the latest floods could happen again. These events are particularly harmful to at-risk populations, like children. Thus, it is the responsibility of not only the authorities in Pakistan but the entire international community to take action on their behalf. As of January 10, 2023, more than $9 billion had been pledged to support Pakistan’s recovery. While this is a positive step for the nation as a whole, millions of children who remain in danger as a result of the flood crisis still need attention.

– Johanna Bunn
Photo: Flickr

Houses in Pakistan
An NGO based in South Africa, Spiritual Chords, is supplying bamboo houses in Pakistan that can withstand natural disasters as the previous architecture was vulnerable to destruction from flooding and earthquakes. In terms of climate vulnerability, in 2019, the Inform Risk Index ranked Pakistan 18 out of 191 countries, equating to a very high disaster risk level.

Spiritual Chords

Spiritual Chords is an organization founded for the sole purpose of assisting those affected adversely by natural disasters. Its main focus is on South Africa but it aids inhabitants of struggling countries across the world. Sustainable development is important to the organization’s mission and is at the core of each project it fosters. Therefore, Spiritual Chords makes changes in progressive ways utilizing readily available resources meant to last generations.

Goals and Programs

Spiritual Chords has developed a variety of programs to meet the needs of people affected by natural disasters living in countries with a lack of resources. It recognizes the importance of education in the development of a country’s wealth, and therefore, runs many projects centered around improving the education of underprivileged children. It also aids members of communities with health care and emergency relief directly following a natural disaster. In addition to these activities, Spiritual Chords helps to advance the development of clean water resources, sanitation, housing and community initiatives.

Flooding in Pakistan

Pakistan stands as an example of the impacts of natural disasters on an already struggling country. In 2011, Pakistan suffered from disastrous flooding. This flooding demolished housing, destroyed resources and exacerbated existing conditions of poverty. In 2011, 36.3% of the population in Pakistan lived under the national poverty line.

UNICEF reported that the flooding impacted close to 5.06 million Pakistani people and led to the destruction of 460,000 homes in Pakistan, resulting in mass displacement in affected areas. Because of this, Pakistan required outside aid to help people meet their needs for safe drinking water, food and shelter. Although it has been years since the 2011 floods, the effects still linger. Because Pakistan is highly susceptible to annual natural disasters, it is integral to build lasting housing that can withstand the effects of flooding.

Spiritual Chords’ Work in Pakistan

Recognizing this need, Spiritual Chords began the work of rebuilding houses in Pakistan in 2013. With the help of Yasmin Lari, the first female architect in Pakistan, Spiritual Chords developed a concept design. It focused on using bamboo because structures built with this material can withstand flooding. In Pakistan, in the aftermath of flooding, water damage destroyed mud brick structures, however, structures built with bamboo faced minimal harm. The design was simple yet effective and development began shortly after. In the years since, Spiritual Chords has assisted in the installation of handpumps, wells, non-electric stoves and toilets.

A recent collaboration between the Pakistani government and internal NGOs has sparked a newfound interest in this project. Safeeyaah Moosa, the founder of Spiritual Chords, told Outlook India in January 2023 that these new developments “have the potential of making 5,000 houses a month.” This work will continue to benefit Pakistan’s inhabitants for generations.

Looking Ahead

Spiritual Chords’ mission is to aid those struggling as a result of natural disasters and it accomplishes this by implementing positive programming. The programs focus on issues including housing, water/sanitation, health care, community building and education. In Pakistan, a country suffering from the long-term effects of flooding, Spiritual Chords provided materials to build sustainable bamboo houses in Pakistan. Because this architecture is meant to withstand the effects of flooding, it will be a long-term solution for the inhabitants of the country.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in Pakistan Pakistan experiences a yearly monsoon season typically beginning in mid-June and lasting until late August. An abnormally extreme monsoon season in 2022, primarily affecting the Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, has led to torrential rainfall. This 2022 rainfall has led to disastrous flooding in Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 1,700 and displacing 7.9 million.

As living conditions rapidly decline for those in the most heavily affected regions, the people that have been historically discriminated against receive the most serious repercussions. The provinces hit hardest by the flooding were housing an estimated 800,000 Afghan refugees. Given the falling value of their currency, coupled with the destruction of their homes and schools, many in most affected areas, 70% of which are women and children, have no options to reconstruct their lives, UNICEF reports. Waterborne diseases are raising concerns in these areas, as many are unable to leave despite the destruction.

Why Does This Keep Happening? 

Global climate change was not the only factor that led to the flooding, nor was this the first instance of extreme flooding in Pakistan’s recent history. In 2010, Pakistan experienced similarly extreme flooding. Since then, Pakistan has done little to reinforce its natural disaster prevention infrastructure and on top of this, Pakistan faces an imminent economic crisis. The inflation rate in Pakistan approached 27% in August 2022 and the Pakistani rupee crashed, causing Pakistan to require aid from wealthier countries to pay for the immense amount of damage caused by the flooding.

Solutions

The UNHCR is spearheading the efforts to provide tents, blankets and other necessities to those affected most by the flooding in Pakistan. In September 2022, the UNHCR delivered over 10,000 metric tons of goods to those affected, with a special focus on the Afghan refugees. Additionally, UNHCR ran rapid needs assessments with the aid of the Pakistani government, along with mobilizing female-centered support, as women and children are among the most affected by the floods.

In addition to the UNHCR, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has been working to provide food to those Pakastani flood victims, including those in relief camps. The WFP has “reached more than 400,000 people with food assistance in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces.” The WFP has also provided especially nutritious food to children and pregnant women in an effort to push back against increasing levels of malnutrition in the wake of widespread crop destruction.

A post-disaster that the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives led has begun in an effort to develop a recovery plan for the government moving forward. 

How Does the Future Look for Pakistan?

Though climate change played an important role in causing flooding in Pakistan, it is important to note that Pakistan contributes “less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,” The New Humanitarian reports. Because of this, Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, has suggested that Pakistan has plans to demand climate reparations from the countries that play a much larger part in global climate change, according to The New Humanitarian. Efficient and productive strides have been taken in the direction of recovery for Pakistan in the wake of these cataclysmic floods. 

– Christopher Dickinson
Photo: Flickr

Updates on SDG 2 in Pakistan
In 2015, U.N. Member States adopted the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. These goals provide a “blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.” The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development forms a holistic plan to combat poverty, inequalities, poor health care, extreme weather patterns and more. SDG 2, in particular, aims for zero hunger. With extreme climatic conditions globally and the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war, food insecurity levels are rising. As of September 2, 2022, floods in Pakistan have led to water submerging a third of the nation. Almost 1,200 people have died and 3,500 people have faced injuries. Pakistan’s floods have affected 33 million people and 6.6 million of these people face severe impacts. Updates on SDG 2 in Pakistan provide insight into the impacts of the floods on the nation’s progress toward zero hunger.

Updates on SDG 2 In Pakistan: Deteriorating Conditions

Around the globe, SDG progress reduced in 2021 due to slow economic recovery in low- and middle-income countries and the impacts of extreme weather conditions. Pakistan, being both a low-income country and a nation with vulnerability to climatic disasters, lags behind in terms of SDG progress. In 2021, Pakistan ranked 125 out of 163 on the SDGs index and had a score of 59.3, which is lower than the region’s average of 65.9.

One of the updates on SDG 2 in Pakistan is that, especially amid the Russia-Ukraine war, food insecurity has burdened an already struggling economy. The recent floods have exacerbated food insecurity in Pakistan.

Significantly higher rainfall has negatively impacted agricultural lands and livestock as well as transport infrastructure, reducing food access and raising food prices. As of September 22, 2022, 755,000 livestock had died nationwide and 1.9 million people are in need of food and agricultural aid. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Humanitarian Advisory Team also estimates that “73% of households in areas of flooding have inadequate resources to buy food.” Exacerbated food insecurity means Pakistan has taken a step backward in SDG 2 progress.

The Progress

However, not everything is ill-boding: Pakistan’s overall score on the SDGs index rose from 52.95 in 2015 to 63.10 in 2020, indicating significant progress. On a positive note, one of the updates on SDG 2 in Pakistan is that the nation saw an increase of “28.2[%] from the baseline” in several goals, including zero hunger, from 2015 to 2020.

In 2018, Pakistan’s government started working with the World Food Programme (WFP) to implement programs to reduce hunger across the nation in order to make progress toward SDG 2. These efforts include supplying food and nutrition aid after disasters to the most vulnerable groups through cash and food transfers. In 2019, the United Nations Human Settlement Programme started working with the Pakistani government to “restrict conversion of prime agricultural land into other uses.”

In September 2022, OCHA reported that the “lead agencies in food security and the agricultural sector” have supplied “food assistance and livelihood support” for around 410,000 people in Pakistan’s most flood-affected provinces.

Pakistan’s government also took immediate action to aid flood-affected households: $173 million in cash transfers to 1.5 million households. With the help of the U.N., Pakistan “launched a multisectoral flood response” initiative to assist 5.2 million individuals for at least six months. This program includes an agenda to restore livelihoods dependent on crops and livestock.

Looking Ahead

In response to the extreme weather patterns, in May 2022, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif created a task force focused on mitigating the effects of the adverse weather and had a meeting in August 2022 on the swift “implementation of climate adaptation policies.” The prime minister acknowledged the urgency of the situation in a tweet once the meeting ended: “Gone are the days when climate change was the subject of drawing room discussions. It is affecting our everyday life. Food and water security [are] directly linked to climate hazards.”

In order to ensure Pakistan’s progress in SDG 2 and other goals, mitigating the effects of climatic hazards is key as is strengthening the country’s resilience to shocks.

– Samyukta Gaddam
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Pakistan
According to HelpAge International, in Pakistan, millions of elderly people endure conditions of poverty. In 2019, Pakistan had 15 million individuals over the age of 60, equating to 7% of the population. Though the elderly make up a smaller segment of the population now, projections indicate that the number of elderly people in Pakistan will rise to 40 million by 2050. In 2018, just “2.3% of the population older than the statutory pensionable age in Pakistan” received a pension. In the face of adversity, vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, suffer the most. For this reason, it is vital to address elderly poverty in Pakistan.

Floods in Pakistan

Recent floods in Pakistan have led to a humanitarian crisis. An October 2022 article by Arab News has indicated that, in flood-affected areas, almost 48% of Pakistani elders, according to a HelpAge International survey, lack access to health facilities.

The survey notes that close to 90% of the elderly “reported having a health condition, with 42[%] having more than one.” The survey lists the top six conditions affecting the elderly during the flooding as joint pains, high blood pressure, respiratory conditions, cardiac issues, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems.

Elderly Poverty in Pakistan

In Pakistan, as per the research of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, in 2001, about 37% of the elderly population lived either on or below the poverty line. Low-income elderly people tend to rely on their children, typically sons, for economic support and shelter as old-age homes do not form part of the country’s culture. Elderly people with lower incomes are more likely to live with their children but this rate is lower for elderly people with higher incomes.

Data from a 2001 survey shows that elderly poverty is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban areas. Almost 66% of the elder population resides in rural areas of Pakistan while 33% lives in urban areas. Rural elders are relatively worse off as towns and villages lack proper health care and facilities. About 45% of rural elders live below the poverty line compared to 23% of their urban counterparts. Urban elders have greater satisfaction with their living conditions as they have greater access to healthy food, electricity and clean water.

In 2001, about 19% of the elderly population in Pakistan engaged in employment. Out of the employed elderly segment, males accounted for 32% while females accounted for only 4.7%. Yet, statistics do not indicate that elderly poverty in Pakistan affects women disproportionally.

The literacy rate among the elderly stood at 23% in 2001. Male elderly literacy rates stood at 37% versus 8% among elderly women. These statistics reflect females’ lack of access to education while growing up, likely due to gender norms that prioritize the education of males as society expects females to manage household chores and caretaking.

National Policy for Elderly People

In 2014, Pakistan passed the Senior Citizens Act, which established the Senior Citizens Welfare Council. The council is responsible for advocating for the cause through policy proposals that aim to improve the well-being of the elderly. Pensions, old-age benefits, affordable transport and health facilities are part of the Act’s core agenda. Other provinces, such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan, established similar acts and councils to ensure a good quality of life for the elderly. For example, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Citizens Act ensures free access for the elderly to “public museums, libraries, parks and recreation facilities.” It also established separate counters for the elderly in hospitals and lower medical/medicinal rates.

HelpAge International

HelpAge is an international NGO that has worked in Pakistan since 2010. It advocates for the rights of the elderly in Pakistan and collaborates with more than 200 associations for older people in Pakistan. HelpAge responds to emergency situations and provides “age-friendly support” to elders. Up until now, in Pakistan, the organization has provided cash grants to 2,495 elderly individuals.

The HelpAge website tells the story of 60-year-old Atta Muhammad Birohi from Sindh. HelpAge gave him $135 as microcredit to establish an income-generating activity. Using the microcredit, Birohi purchased supplies to make roof beds, also known as pattrons. He sold these beds to generate an income, paid the microcredit loan back timeously and purchased a goat to bring in supplementary income.

HelpAge has also “provided assistive devices and physiotherapy services” to 1,507 elders in Pakistan. It is also advocating for income security through social pensions to alleviate elderly poverty in Pakistan. In this regard, it has proposed many reforms that are yet to materialize.

In a nutshell, the elderly population in Pakistan will likely rise in the coming years. To avoid rates of elderly poverty in Pakistan rising along with it, comprehensive social protection is necessary.

– Sarmad Wali Khan
Photo: Flickr

Aid to Pakistan
In the aftermath of Pakistan’s devastating 2022 floods, many different groups have stepped up to provide humanitarian aid, including nations, NGOs and the Pakistani diaspora community.

The 2022 Pakistan Floods

Beginning in June 2022, a severe monsoon season in Pakistan led to historic flooding and landslides that swept through the nation, destroying towns and rendering millions of Pakistanis homeless. In total, the flooding has impacted at least 33 million people and left one-third of the nation underwater. In Karachi, authorities have reported outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever, with thousands of patients traveling to hospitals and public health centers for treatment.

Pakistani children in particular face vulnerability to waterborne diseases, and their education has experienced disruption as the floods have ravaged thousands of Pakistani schools. As of October 2022, 10 million children are now in need 0f life-saving support.

According to Pakistani authorities, the flood waters may not fully subside for months. More than 1,500 people have died since the floods began, and damages are estimated at more than $30 billion. Food scarcity is now a serious issue, as the flooding has devastated the nation’s agricultural sector. Amidst this catastrophic event for Pakistan, organizations are stepping up to provide lifesaving support to those affected, and to help the nation rebuild.

Nations and Humanitarian Organizations Supporting Pakistan

The U.S. government has allocated significant ongoing humanitarian aid to Pakistan. Since the crisis began, the U.S. military has flown more than 400 metric tons of supplies, which should assist at least 300,000 victims. Additionally, in August 2022, the U.S. government provided more than $30 million in relief assistance to Pakistan through USAID.

Additionally, the United Kingdom provided $1.8 million of aid in August. In a public statement, the late Queen Elizabeth II expressed that the “United Kingdom stands in solidarity with Pakistan” in its efforts to recover.

As of September, the U.N.’s Central Emergency Relief fund has pledged $10 million to Pakistan for public health measures such as preventing waterborne disease and improving access to clean water and food.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Relief Fund (UNICEF) is sending emergency medical supplies to women and children in the regions that have suffered the most destruction, specifically to combat malnutrition and waterborne illnesses. UNICEF has also underscored its commitment to ensuring children in the nation can resume their education as soon as possible.

The United Arab Emirates has been a leader in providing aid to Pakistan amidst the flooding, sending numerous planeloads of supplies through an ‘air bridge’ between the two nations. Emirates, a UAE airline, declared it would provide free cargo space on its passenger aircraft to fly additional aid to Pakistan.

Grassroots Efforts to Provide Relief to Pakistan

While large humanitarian efforts by governments and other bureaucracies are important, one should not overlook grassroots relief efforts.

In Atlanta, Pakistani immigrant Imran Khan is raising money to provide food, medicine and other emergency supplies to those affected by the flooding. Khan began his efforts by reaching out to friends and family members, but his fundraising mission quickly spread to the local community. He started an online fundraising campaign to continue delivering relief packages, where he has raised more than $3,000.

Sami Khan, the owner of an ice cream shop in Connecticut, held a fundraiser called ‘Pints for Pakistan,’ sending the day’s proceeds to UNICEF relief efforts. Hearing accounts from family and friends about the devastation caused in his homeland inspired Khan, who is originally from Pakistan to act. Dozens of community members, including a state representative, came to support the fundraiser.

The Importance of Continued Support

Procuring humanitarian aid to Pakistan is an ongoing process, and the efforts described here, as well as many others, are actively saving lives in Pakistan. As this crisis will not be over in the immediate future, continued public support for international aid is crucial.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in Pakistan
After massive flooding in Pakistan due to atypically strong monsoon rains and the Indus River overflowing, in August 2022, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s government unveiled a new mobile app to help those the disaster affected receive aid. The app comes as millions have experienced displacement and the Pakistani government has received millions of dollars in aid.

Prior to the flooding, the country had been seeing economic growth. Additionally, according to the World Bank, Pakistan reduced national poverty from 64.3% to 24.3% from 2001 to 2015. The World Bank credits economic diversification and expansion outside of the agriculture sector for the nation’s development. However, Pakistan has seen setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Business Standard, the pandemic led to a setback in the number of people living below the international poverty line. The publication announced that the poverty rate in Pakistan grew from 4.4% to 5.4% in 2020 and 3.9% in 2015.

The recent flooding posits a new roadblock and challenge for Pakistan’s economic growth and its people’s security. Now, the nation has created a technological solution in hopes to speed up recovery and provide support to its citizens.

The Damage that the Floods in Pakistan Caused

Recent satellite imaging shows a newly-formed lake more than 100 km wide in Pakistan’s Sindh Province after the rising waters subsided. The lake serves as a physical reminder of the devastation left behind by the flooding in Pakistan which has thrown millions of lives into flux and caused widespread poverty.

Per Business Standard, more than 1,000 people have died from the recent flooding in Pakistan, but tens of millions more were impacted by the disaster. Water destroyed and damaged nearly a million homes, leaving millions without access to electricity, clean water or shelter. Per UNICEF, more than 664,000 have had to live in displacement camps scattered throughout the country while they await restitution.

As recently as 2018, agriculture made up more than 18% of Pakistan’s economy, with a majority of it being biased toward livestock, which makes it the largest sector of the Pakistani economy.

Reports noted that the flooding in Pakistan has killed more than 7 million livestock and rendered millions of acres of farmable land unusable, leaving many across the country without their primary source of income.

Foreign Aid and the Flood Reporting Mobile Application

In response to the flooding in Pakistan, there has been an outpouring of aid and support from the international community. The U.N. has sent $2.6 million to Pakistan, and its Central Emergency Response Fund plans to send $3 million more to help with recovery efforts.

Countries within the Islamic world have been particularly supportive of Pakistan’s healing. The United Arab Emirates has planned to send 15 planes with supplies to the country. Turkey and its Red Crescent Society have provided supplies like mosquito nets and tents for families displaced by the disaster. The NGO Qatar charity has given aid to more than 9,000 Afghan refugees and members of the Balochistan province affected by the flooding.

To help in distributing the aid it has received, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was among the provinces that the flooding in Pakistan hit the worst according to NASA’s satellite imaging, has released a mobile app for its citizens to use to report flood damage and request aid. According to Provincial Minister for Science and Information Technology Atif Khan, the app is primarily for requesting food and medical services.

The app is simple in its design and relatively straightforward in its use. Upon opening the app, the user sees the provincial government’s logo and then goes to the screen for reporting. From there, users can file reports, view new and historic reports and examine completed reports. According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and relevant district administration respond to each claim.

Khan has said that the provincial government takes “urgent steps” in response to each user’s request for aid, though he has not provided a specific timetable for when the steps should be fulfilled or the specifics of what it has been able to provide users.

One issue with the app is that many of those that may need aid the most in Pakistan do not have easy access to regular electricity or WI-FI due to the damage caused by flooding, which makes it difficult to download and run the Flood Reporting Mobile Application. However, for those that can use it, the app connects them to support in a time when disaster has divided the nation.

– Ryan Morton
Photo: Flickr

architect and humanitarian Yasmeen Lari
The 2022 summer floods in Pakistan have impacted 33 million people, killed more than 1,600 and left one-third of the country temporarily underwater. Half a million Pakistanis ended up without a home. Fortunately, kind souls such as architect and humanitarian Yasmeen Lari have intervened. Pakistan’s first female architect, after decades of civil and humanitarian service, designed and disseminated sustainable bamboo shelters that can be easily assembled and transported to higher ground during floods. Architect and humanitarian Yasmeen Lari has been full of assistance. She has a long track record of working to ease Pakistani plight. Focusing on environmental well-being, the settlement of Pakistanis and the need for a redesign of foreign aid, Yasmeen has built a legacy for herself that is both admirable and enlightening.

Sustainability

A common theme of the work of architect and humanitarian Yasmeen Lari is environmental conscientiousness, which is in every component of her work, from bamboo huts in the aftermath of flooding to city planning. She has called for the replacement of the pavement with terracotta, because of its ability to better absorb water and the low impact of its manufacture. In Karachi, Yasmeen has pledged to assist the city in mitigating the effects of climate change by reducing its carbon footprint, citing that her line of work accounts for nearly 40% of worldwide emissions.

Education

In 1980 Yasmeen and her husband Suhail started the Heritage Foundation, which focuses on the conservation of traditional Pakistani architecture and culture. Since the early 2000s, she stopped working on big architectural projects in order to focus on writing architecture books and humanitarian work. Through the Heritage Foundation, the Laris have worked to educate illiterate Pakistani women. One project has been promoting alternatives to cooking over open fires, which can cause deforestation, fires and respiratory illness. The Saris have helped introduce mud and lime-plastered stoves that run on local biofuels such as cattle waste or sawdust.

Foreign Aid

While Yasmeen may prefer for aid to be locally sourced, she is not opposed to foreign groups offering their support, given the mere scale of the catastrophes facing Pakistan. However, she feels that NGOs and governments ought to alter the way in which they approach their assistance, and should shift from focusing on how much they can give monetarily and to how much they can empower and inspire the suffering to help themselves. “The aid mindset,” she told The Guardian, “is to think of everyone as helpless victims who need things done for them, but we have to help people to do things for themselves.”

Life of Service

The work of architect and humanitarian Yasmeen Lari has offered assistance to disaster victims in Pakistan in her own unique way. This selfless woman has been able to combine her love for architecture, environmental awareness and the empowerment of others into her work, and is teaching others how to do the same. The Heritage Foundation instructs Pakistanis, among many things, on how to build their own bamboo structures on its YouTube page. Yasmeen has also hosted eco-friendly workshops for female architecture students, where they build huts under her supervision. Yasmeen and her husband are always working on new projects, from ovens to recycling, and their work after this year’s massive flooding is merely the tip of the iceberg.

– Jacob Lawhern
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Global Education
More than 420 million people would be able to escape poverty if everyone around the world attended primary and secondary education, cutting global poverty numbers in half, UNESCO estimated in a 2017 analysis. If all children in low-income countries learned to read, 171 million people would rise out of extreme poverty. While achieving high-quality universal education might seem like a lofty goal, simply giving parents more information about their children’s education has proven to be a straightforward yet effective method of improving global education outcomes.

Report Cards Improve Test Performance

One 2017 study that the American Economic Review published examined the effect of school report cards on educational outcomes in Pakistan. Pakistan is a lower-middle-income country where only 58% of people aged 15 and older can read and write. By the end of third grade, not even a third of students can write a correct sentence. For the study, the researchers, who consisted of two American professors and one World Bank researcher, randomly chose the students of 56 Pakistani towns to receive report cards while students in 56 other towns did not receive report cards. This study delivered two-page report cards to the families of children in selected towns. The report cards contained the child’s test scores, information about their child’s performance relative to other students and information about the performance of the child’s school.

To test the effect of the report cards, the researchers compared standardized test scores at the time of the report card to scores on the same tests a year later. The researchers found that, in towns where parents had received report cards, students’ scores increased 42% more than students’ scores in towns where parents had not received report cards. In addition to improving performance on standard tests, the report cards also led to a 4.5% increase in elementary school enrolment and a 17% decrease in private school costs. The researchers suspect that these improvements are due to increased parent engagement with education due to receiving the report cards. Despite the notable impact of this intervention, the total cost of creating and distributing report cards was only $1 per student.

Attendance Reports Prevent Dropouts

In 2018, the World Bank published a study on the efficacy of different techniques for improving school attendance. The World Bank conducted its research in Mozambique, a low-income African Country where the literacy rate is only 60.7%. Fewer than one in five children in Mozambique attend secondary education and just 33.2% complete primary education. One of the techniques the researchers tested for improving school attendance rates was creating attendance reports for parents.

The researchers included 2,793 participants from 173 schools in their study. All the participants were girls in fifth and sixth grade at the start of the study. Study participants placed in the group with attendance reports would get a sheet indicating which days they had attended school to give their parents at the end of each week. To measure the effect of these attendance reports, observers would randomly check in on schools to see if the students participating in the study were present that day.

After three years of data collection, the researchers concluded that the weekly attendance reports did increase school attendance. For students who received attendance reports, attendance increased by 6.9% compared to students who did not receive an attendance report. The researchers also found that these attendance reports were just as effective at increasing attendance as a monetary incentive offered to parents.

Applying the Science

More than 600 million children around the world are unable to gain basic reading and math skills, UNICEF reported. While many of these children lack access to education, approximately two-thirds of them are in school and still are unable to gain a baseline education. Education access encompasses not only access to education but access to effective education. Research indicates that taking simple steps to improve parent information about schools by giving parents report cards about their child’s and school’s performance or giving them attendance reports contributes toward improving global education outcomes. Providing 600 million children with quality education will doubtlessly be a challenging task but, as this research indicates, simply providing parents more information about their child’s education could be a meaningful yet simple and low-cost part of the solution.

– Anna Inghram
Photo: Wikipedia Commons