Pakistani Diaspora: Saving Lives and Livelihoods

Sidra Insar Chaudhary


Sidra Insar Chaudhary

Sheraz Syed, a taxi driver in Barcelona, Spain, along with 200 other Pakistani volunteers has been providing free rides to the essential medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic. In Mid-March when covid-19 cases started rising rapidly in Spain, and the country was placed under lockdown, the problem for medical staff to get to hospitals or quarantine facilities became serious, especially at night time. The Pakistani volunteers went to the near by hospitals and started communicating their contact details and soon developed a system to streamline the transportation of the staff. The group, with help from Pakistani grocery store owners, has now also started volunteer food parcel deliveries to the families in need of help.  Furthermore, Pakistanis in Spain are producing personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers at the Islamic Culture Centre of Catalan. Sheraz Syed and his fellow Pakistanis are just a speck among many stories of spectacular altruism of Pakistani diaspora that has emerged since the pandemic has started.

Pakistanis around the globe are illustrating by their character that at time of emergency there is a greater need for those who does not put their ‘personal safety’ at the foremost but instead go out of their way to help those who are in need. Nowhere this approach is more visible than in America where Pakistani-American community is fighting the pandemic on the frontlines. Among the various South-Asian organizations in the US, The American Pakistani Advocacy Group (APAG) was the first one to launch a well-organized and dedicated relief operation in US to help deliver food and other essential medical supplies to those who are in danger from Covid-19 due to their existing medical conditions. The Pakistani taxi driver community is also at front lines in the world’s hardest coronavirus hit hot spot – the New York City.

First doctor to give his life fighting the pandemic in UK was also from Pakistan, Dr Habib Zaidi died at the age of 76 in Essex where he served the UK public as general physician for 45 years. Dr Zaidi, despite belonging to the age group most threatened by the virus didn’t hesitate to do what was necessary and sacrificed his life. All four children of Dr Zaidi are also in medical profession and they are continuing Dr Zaidi’s philanthropic legacy of putting needs of the society over individual desideratum.

Even in Wuhan, where the Pandemic first started, Pakistani professionals did an amazing job helping Chinese authorities in their fight against covid-19. Dr Usman, a teacher at Changsha Medical College, was the first foreign expert to be allowed by the Chinese authorities to volunteer his services for coronavirus fight. Dr Usman’s efforts were hailed as that of a hero by the Chinese media after the Wuhan city ended its lockdown.

Pakistani physicians from Association of Pakistani Descent in North America (APPNA) and Association of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe (APPNE) have made their country, and profession proud.  From Italy, Spain and UK to now the US, these physicians have not only worked tirelessly in these worst affected hotspots but have also been in constant contact with the authorities back home in Pakistan, communicating tremendously needed practical knowledge to fight this pandemic. Both APPNA and APPNE has contributed in disaster relief and social welfare. Since the pandemic started, $400K has been raised for PPE supply in Pakistan. Technical assistance and emergency support has also been provided to various hospitals in Pakistan. Senior APPNA members like Dr Shahnaz Khan are on ground in Pakistan helping in the distribution of PPE.

Even the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has acknowledged the efforts of Pakistani physicians. Last week, praising the Dr Moiz for setting first mobile laboratory in the country Sec. Mike Pompeo said, “I continue to be amazed by the great work #ExchangeAlumni are doing around the world in response to #COVID19. The dedication of these young leaders to sharing innovative ideas and solutions during this pandemic inspires us all.”

Pakistani diaspora is probably among the most active communities in philanthropy around the world. For instance, just in UK, the research conducted by British Council with the help of Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) found that Pakistani diaspora donates GBP 1.25 billion every year. The report also found Pakistani diaspora to be meticulous about fairness and trustworthiness when working with local organizations in Pakistan.

Pakistani diaspora has not only contributed towards raising good sentiments for the country but it has also helped the country financially by sending much needed remittances of $22 billion every year. The work of these selfless individuals who often have to make serious sacrifices to attain success needs to be appreciated and highlighted in local Pakistani circles. Effects of Covid-19 are going to be profound on health and the economy. The pandemic is going to hit the small businesses the hardest. Therefore, we need the government and organizations to act now and start considering diaspora philanthropy as a solution to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations.