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.


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.


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

Ebola Outbreak
Following the mismanagement of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, international health organizations pledge to reform crisis response.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 24 outbreaks since the endemic disease was first identified over 40 years ago.

The 2014 outbreak in West Africa was the third spread of the 20th century. The effects ravaged the ill-prepared communities of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Over 28,000 cases were reported, nearing a death total of over 11,000.

The West African region had not encountered an Ebola outbreak before 2014. Inexperience, along with inadequate local health facilities and distrust among the local community aided in the severity of the outbreak in Ghana.

The international community’s response also contributed to the haphazard spread throughout the region and eventually the world.

A panel of 19 global health and hygiene experts attributed the 11,300 West African deaths as an “egregious failure” of the WHO and a clear indication of the necessity to implement serious healthcare response reform.

The director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), Ashish Jha, cited the WHO’s intentionally delayed response as negligible, stating that, “People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring, and yet it took until August to declare a public health emergency.”

The WHO acknowledged the need for healthcare reform during the April 16, 2015 press release — citing the importance of increased capacity, communication, coordination, sensitivity and community/culture in future crisis response efforts. The WHO, however, was not the only international body cited for response failure.

The Heritage Foundation found the United States government crisis response efforts as internally lackluster and externally reactionary.

In order to prevent an outbreak of this magnitude, the WHO has committed to implement comprehensive health care response reforms. The corrections include: expanding staff members; creating a Global Health Emergency Workforce; establishing a contingency fund and increasing community engagement.

The mismanagement during the Ebola outbreak highlights the need for action beyond the healthcare response reform. Foreign assistance before and after a health crisis is the most effective way to avoid international health crises.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr