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Vancouver lawyer-turned-philanthropist Katrina Sriranpong asks for help after Pakistan floods

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In an interview with IdeaMensch, Katrina Sriranpong said, “I don’t believe in only support local charities. I help local charities, but I also value organizations around the world. I remember someone once asked me why I bother to help organizations in other countries when there are so many local charities that need help. »

“My reasoning is simple,” explained Katrina Sriranpong. “In Canada, we are fortunate to have access to basic necessities such as clean water, education, food and medical care. But, many international charities strive to help the world’s poorest countries and my dollar tends to go further in those countries. For example, the cost of feeding a starving child or building a school is much cheaper in a developing country, which means more lives benefit.

As a former Vancouver immigration lawyer, Sriranpong has spent a significant portion of her professional career helping refugees settle in Canada and educating them about their immigration challenges. It also defends the rights of children in war-torn countries and supports programs aimed at the rehabilitation, education and development of children.

While working for the International Center for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, an institute of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Program network, her “passion for global humanitarian work s is solidified. I wanted to do everything possible to help immigrants, vulnerable groups and refugees around the world, especially marginalized children. »

Pakistan’s deadly flood

On August 25, 2022, the government of Pakistan declared a national emergency after record rainfall caused flooding across the country. The monsoon season brought heavy rainfall which led not only to flooding but also to devastating landslides which affected millions of Pakistani families.

Katrina Sriranpong believes the devastation in Pakistan is precisely the kind of global calamity that desperately needs attention. Widespread suffering in Pakistan only increased a month after deadly floods, which created inhumane living conditions among Pakistan’s most vulnerable people.

“I strongly believe that change can only happen at the speed of empathy,” says Sriranpong. “We all have the power to be a philanthropist, whether by giving of your time, valuable skills or money.”

Pakistan desperately needs such help. Rivers burst their banks and dams overflowed, causing widespread destruction across much of the country. It is the worst flood Pakistan has seen in decades. In fact, on August 29, the government declared that a third of the country was under water. More than 80 districts in Pakistan are subject to official calamity declarations due to damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, schools and water supply systems. Flooding washed away roads, dramatically delaying rescue and response times. It is still difficult for aid workers to bring their supplies and expertise to the hardest hit areas of the country.

“Our priority right now is to help save and protect lives as the waters continue to rise,” said Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the UK-based Disasters Emergency Committee. “The scale of these floods has caused a shocking level of destruction – crops have been washed away and livestock killed across large swaths of the country, meaning hunger will follow.”

Experts say the worsening floods are the result of climate change, meaning disasters will be longer and more frequent, making it harder for countries like Pakistan to recover from massive damage. The government estimates it will spend $40 billion to recover from the floods, but that’s a conservative estimate.

“What we are facing today has not been an above average monsoon. This is a whole new level of climate-induced disaster,” said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Foreign Minister of Pakistan.

However, Katrina Sriranpong points out that the financial losses do not reflect the human cost of the floods in Pakistan. The floods killed around 1,500 people, including 528 children. To date, floods in Pakistan have displaced more than 8 million people, with more than 600,000 living in temporary relief shelters. Another 16 million children are affected by the devastation of the floods.

Nor is it a short-term disaster. Experts estimate it will take three to six months for the waters to recede. The flood washed away homes, crops, livestock and critical infrastructure, which could spell long-term disaster for Pakistani children.

The people of Pakistan also face dangers that are a by-product of the floods. Contaminated drinking water is a critical problem. The floods have damaged Pakistan’s water supply system to such a degree that it has been rendered unusable in areas across the country. The lack of drinking water has led to severe dehydration of the population. Diarrhea and dehydration are major concerns, especially for children.

Additionally, diseases like malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, are on the rise in Pakistan. The disease disproportionately affects children, who sleep in tents near standing water, where the insects thrive. Walking in contaminated flood waters can also cause skin irritations and infections, especially in the legs and feet. Malnutrition compounds these problems, making it even more difficult for children to recover.

Katrina Sriranpong says education disruption is another complication. COVID-19 has already made it difficult for Pakistani children to return to school. As a result of the floods, thousands of children miss school and only 50% of Pakistani children went to school before the floods. In addition, more than 1.3 million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan, which creates another problem. Some of the worst affected districts in the country also have the highest number of Afghan refugees, making the situation dire.

Medical care is also a challenge as families have to travel hundreds of miles to find a doctor, which is simply not realistic or affordable for the majority of flood-affected Pakistanis. Pakistani children have to rely on emergency medical care tents near temporary shelter sites, though these outposts are often undersupplied and overwhelmed with patients.

UNICEF and Save the Children Canada

Katrina Sriranpong explains that one of the most common arguments against international giving is lack of confidence that your funds will be used for the intended purpose. However, in recent years we have seen charities become more transparent, efficient and accountable. As a former immigration and refugee lawyer, Katrina Sriranpong has been supporting and advocating for Save the Children Canada and UNICEF for over 10 years and encouraging people to support global initiatives similar.

Sriranpong argues that even with the amount of relief provided by the Pakistani government, it is not enough to meet the country’s needs for food, shelter and healthcare. According to UNICEF, more than 3.4 million children need immediate help and the death toll will rise unless the international community unites for Pakistan.

“Girls and boys in Pakistan are paying the price for a climate catastrophe that is not of their making,” said Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. “Young children are living in the open with their families without clean water, food and livelihoods – exposed to a wide range of new flood risks and hazards […] Vital infrastructure…has been destroyed and damaged, including thousands of schools, water systems and health facilities.

To date, charities have distributed over a million essential items to those in need, but Pakistani children need long-term support. To close the gap, the Government of Canada has announced that it will match every dollar donated to Save the Children Canada. With a 100-year track record, this charity has the power to improve outcomes for children even in the toughest times.