Ottawa's Pakistani-Canadians mobilize relief efforts for flood-hit country

·3 min read
Sadaf Ebrahim is the president of the Canada Pakistan Association for the National Capital Region. (Uday Rana/CBC - image credit)
Sadaf Ebrahim is the president of the Canada Pakistan Association for the National Capital Region. (Uday Rana/CBC - image credit)

Shabana Baig's sister owns and operates a hospital in Nowshera, in Pakistan's northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — one of the worst hit by the floods devastating the country.

Baig, an Ottawa resident, said hearing from her sister and watching visuals of the country she left 27 years ago stirred her to action. She's helping organize a series of collection drives across the city for those affected.

Her sister's hospital was flooded when the Kabul River overflowed after an extreme monsoon.

"It's very hard. I cried a lot. I cried a lot. Then I [decided to] stand up. I say, no, this is not the time to cry. It's time to stand up and help them the way I can. Whatever I can do, I should do."

Tents for those who lost their homes

More than one-third of the South Asian nation is under water. As of Sunday, the death toll stood at 1,290, including 453 children.

The UN Humanitarian Coordination Office said on its website the floods have damaged around one million homes, sending nearly 500,000 people to relief camps.

Those numbers are why the Canada Pakistan Association for the National Capital Region are using the money their raising to buy tents.

Uday Rana/CBC
Uday Rana/CBC

Many in the group, including the association's president Sadaf Ebrahim, have family in Pakistan.

"In this difficult time, I wish I could be in Pakistan. But there is a lot we can do while living in Canada," she said.

The association is holding collection drives every weekend till October 3, when a 40-foot container full of relief material will be shipped out.

The drives will be held in Kanata, Barrhaven, Orleans and Findlay Creek.

Ebrahim says the group has already purchased 100 tents and plans to raise enough to buy 100 more over the course of their month long collection drive.

The drives will also collect items the displaced families will need including clothing and hygiene products.

"They [displaced people] have no place to live, no place to go. Everything is gone," she said.

Uday Rana/CBC
Uday Rana/CBC

Keeping the spotlight on 

Shamoon Irshad drove up to the collection site in Kanata to donate clothes.

His family in Karachi is safe from the floods, but the climate catastrophe has caused massive inflation in Pakistan.

The floods, Irshad said, have made things worse. But he said those in the diaspora can help.

"We could help financially and provide donations to them. We can help raise awareness about the problem. Unless everyone is aware, nobody will be coming to help. Our focus should be on letting the world know what kind of calamity has hit our country."

Sajjad Khan's cousins in Nowshera live along the banks of the Kabul River. They had to be evacuated when the river flooded. He said he's worried, not just for the situation right now, but for the future too.

"This is now the phase where sympathy is pouring in from all over the world. My worry is what will happen when everything has settled down and the stage of the phase of rehabilitation starts. I hope those affected by the floods get help then too," he said.