KSRelief first to reach Neelum Valley with winter aid

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KSRelief officers reach the Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir on Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)
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KSRelief officers reach the Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)
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Updated 27 January 2020

KSRelief first to reach Neelum Valley with winter aid

  • Mountain villages remain cut off from road access due to heavy snow and landslides
  • KSRelief’s $1.5 million winter aid project brings help to cold weather-affected communities in 21 districts across Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) becomes the first international aid agency to reach remote mountain villages in the Neelum Valley area with winter survival kits.
KSRelief officers reached Surgan, Bakwali and Seri areas in the Neelum district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Saturday.
“Due to heavy snow and glacier landslides, Surgan area in the stretches of high mountains is completely cut off from the main town of Sharda until now,” KSRelief told Arab News in a statement on Monday.
Sharda is located 137 kilometers northeast of Muzaffarabad, the capital of AJK. Bakwali and Seri lie some eight and 10 kilometers off the main Neelum Valley road in AJK territory.

KSRelief distributes winter survival kits in remote mountain villages of the Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)

KSRelief distributed 7,500 winter kits, with medicines and warm gear – 15,000 blankets, shawls for men and women, socks, gloves and caps.
“The agency distributed 2,000 winter kits in Neelum Valley, including (among the) affected people of Bakwali, Seri and Surgan areas of tehsil Sharda. Another 1,500 winter gears were distributed in Muzaffarabad district and 1,000 kits in Hattian Bala,” the statement said. Another 3,000 packages went to Haveli, Mirpur and Bagh districts with 1,000 kits.
Muhammad Farooq, a resident of Surgan, told Arab News over the phone on Monday that he was grateful to the Saudi agency for reaching the village despite such difficult snow-laden terrain.
“Due to heavy snowfall, rains and sliding land, 55 people died in our village and many houses were destroyed. Our children were getting ill with every passing day,” Farooq said, adding that the winter kits are life-saving for the community.
Another resident, Afzaal Rafiq, said it was very hard to access the village as all passages remain covered by snow.
“This organization is the first one to reach us and these blankets and other items are very precious for us,” he told Arab News.
Muhammad Siddiqui from Bakwali said there is an acute shortage of food and medicine in the village as it remains completely cut off from Sharda.
“This clothing provided to us by the Saudi agency is much needed and will provide relief to the affected families. We appeal all other organizations to follow in the footsteps of KSRelief and help us,” Siddiqui told Arab News.

KSRelief vehicles reach Surgan in the Neelum district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)

According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), at least 105 people were killed and 96 injured in the wake of recent weather-related incidents in the country. The majority of casualties were reported from Azad Kashmir where heavy rains and snowfall triggered avalanches, especially in the Neelum Valley area.
Earlier this month, KSRelief launched a $1.5 million winter relief project to distribute 30,000 winter bags containing 180 tons of goods in 21 districts across Pakistan. The initiative is expected to benefit 150,000 people.
With one of the largest humanitarian aid budgets in the world, KSRelief has been working in 46 countries. Pakistan is the fifth-largest recipient of its assistance and has received more than $117.6 million in aid since 2005.

35 percent Pakistanis say coronavirus pandemic has reduced incomes — survey

Updated 22 September 2020

35 percent Pakistanis say coronavirus pandemic has reduced incomes — survey

  • Labor experts say a large number of workers laid off by their organizations in the name of social distancing
  • Standard Chartered Bank survey shows 87 percent respondents said they were willing to adapt to emerging environment by using more technology

KARACHI: The coronavirus pandemic has reduced incomes for at least 35 percent of Pakistanis, a survey conducted by a leading international bank said, while a large number of people had lost their livelihoods to the virus.
According to an online study carried out by Standard Chartered Bank, one-third or 35 percent of Pakistanis, including 36 percent of the country’s youth, reported a reduction in their salaries.
The study was conducted in July this year in 12 different markets, including the United States, United Kingdom, India and China. Its findings were released last week.
The study involved 12,000 individuals above the age of 18, Farhan Ahmed, the bank’s communications head in Pakistan, told Arab News on Tuesday. Among the respondents were 1,000 Pakistanis from various urban centers working in different fields, he said.
The survey showed that 88 percent people preferred to work harder for a fewer number of hours and less pay, while 72 percent were looking for a second source of earning to add to their income stream. Over 50 percent anticipated major changes in the next three to six months, with 48 percent expecting reduced pay and 49 percent fearing redundancy.
“Business owners have found a plausible excuse to cut down workforce in the name of implementing the prescribed precautionary measures that require fewer people to operate in a given space,” Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan, told Arab News.
“In the first place, people over 50 years of age were asked not to come to work,” he said. “These senior employees did not get their salaries and other benefits. After that, organizations relieved a majority of their workforce in the name of social distancing. In such cases, they reduced the number of employees by about 50 percent. The remaining staff was either laid off or retained without pay.”
In April, the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), a government entity, projected that the coronavirus pandemic, ensuing lockdowns, and falling growth rates were likely to drive between 12.3 million and 18.5 million people out of jobs.
“Such estimates inadvertently downplay the actual impact of the economic downturn since they usually focus on small regions or areas of economy. It should be clear that even the primary sectors, such as agriculture, manufacturing and mining etc., have also suffered a lot,” Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News. “The second wave of virus is already hitting our trade partners in the West and that will make current estimates outdated in the coming days.”
According to Farhan Ahmed of Standard Chartered Bank, 87 percent of survey respondents said they were willing to adapt to the emerging environment by using more technology. Similarly, 83 percent respondents were confident they had the necessary skills to thrive in an increasingly digital world and were willing to explore greater opportunities by working more relentlessly in the post-COVID-19 environment.
Sixty-six percent people also said they wanted to start new businesses.
“There are many opportunities emerging for our youth who are willing to adapt,” Ahmed said. “The changing business models are providing opportunities to urban and rural dwellers alike.”