With the world battling COVID-19 pandemic and the country under smart lockdown, there have been increased philanthropic activities to reduce the burden of low-income families, providing them with the basic facilities. With the downturn of the economy hitting almost 25% of the country’s population, it is almost accurate to say that the majority of the population which lives below the poverty line has been affected mostly. Some on a very large scale while others having a local impact but these activities came to the front from every corner of the country. These activities were all directed towards making ration available for the affected families, providing relief funds, free food drives in restaurants and helping the front lines by providing them protective equipment and training.
Concerning the lockdown, an initiative called ‘Ehsaas’ programme was launched by the Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 1, 2020, with the aim to distribute relief funds among 12 million families through a biometric verification in order to ensure that the system is not abused. The programme emphasised especially on the affectees such as daily wagers who were troubled due to the lockdown since it had come in the way of their only source of survival.
Similarly, another drive by Al-Khidmat Foundation, one of the largest charity organisations in Pakistan, was seen doing commendable work of distributing ration enough for 15 days among the families in the low-income areas, which included soaps, sanitizers and face masks in addition to the ration. The foundation has also designated isolation wards to handle the Coronavirus cases.
The Government of Balochistan playing a significant role in these activities decided to provide bread to the deserving families in the provincial capital with the help of a non-governmental organisation, Bait ul Islam. Under the joint programme, bread was provided at the doorsteps of the needy people through the combined effort of the volunteers.
StepUp was another project launched by the Salman Sufi Foundation, which connects people to staples they may otherwise not have access to because of a drain in finances caused by lack of income, price gouging or because of unavailability in the market as a result of hoarding. Similar drives were also established by renowned social activities Jibran Nasir and the former cricketer Shahid Khan Afridi who has been out on the ground helping the poor people especially the Hindu and Christian minorities in the country. Through his foundation, the former cricketer claimed to raised funds and deliver essential supplies to over 2000 families.
These services were not just confined to providing rations, but also to supply personal protective equipment (PPE’s) to the health care providers. A group of individuals came together forming an initiative called Balochistan Youth Against Corona (BYAC) and managed to provide the doctors with protective gears through the funds raised which were much obliged in times where most of the health community is at stake without the PPE’s, while previously distributing ration amongst thousands.
Edhi Foundation, which is already known for its charity work took actively part in importing Coronavirus testing kits, which was provided to the government and different charity hospitals throughout the country including remote areas, in addition to distributing rations among needy families. Not only that, but the foundation also served to provide its ambulances to help transport the suspected cases to the hospital and various quarantine centres across the county.
Moreover, various online training sessions for doctors, nurses and paramedic staff by different hospitals came to strengthen the expertise needed to manage COVID-19. Agha Khan Medical University Karachi, Khyber Medical University Peshawar, Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences to name a few have been the pioneers to encourage such activities in their respective provinces. Thorough guidelines from receiving a suspected patient to safely handling him without any contamination and following the due protocols were some of the points these training stressed on.
Internationally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a stir in the field of research with the development of effective drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics with philanthropic resources helping move the auspicious therapeutics from the lab, through clinical trials, and into the manufacturing process as soon as possible. With that, different leading companies like PhRMA are not only applying their scientific expertise but also providing donations for medicines and medical supplies in order to address the evolving crisis.
Though these activities compel us to believe in the existence of humanity and those behind it deserve immense respect for their philanthropist contribution, yet it comes with some unanswered questions that require elucidations.
The question arises here is that are these activities enough to get through the crisis? Or is there anything else to be done to get benefit from on a wider picture? As the labourers are the worst hit whose livelihood has been poorly affected by the pandemic, therefore, is there a permanent solution to these problems or do they have to rely on charity funds every time something similar hits them right away?
Likewise what is equally important is the need to ensure that tests, antivirals, and vaccines are available for even the underdeveloped countries or only those with the advanced economy will gain all the benefits. Are we ready and working towards being equipped to address these unexpected challenges and the impact, protect public health and assist those infected by the virus?