KSRelief completes 22 food projects worth $16.83mln in 14 years of Pakistan operations

A KSRelief official distributes food packets in Islamabad on April 30, 2019. (Photo Courtesy: KSRelief)
Updated 30 August 2019

KSRelief completes 22 food projects worth $16.83mln in 14 years of Pakistan operations

  • Approximately 600,000 Pakistanis benefited from KSRelief food items in 2019
  • Agency distributed 230 tons of dates this year to 396,000 people in vulnerable areas

ISLAMABAD: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has completed 22 food security projects worth $16.83 million in Pakistan since 2005, a senior official at the international aid agency said as it completes 14 years of operations in the South Asian nation.
KSRelief has one of the largest humanitarian aid budgets in the world and operates in 44 countries where it has spent upwards of $3.25 billion on 1,011 projects. The agency has worked as a partner with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on several projects, including providing basic relief materials for internally displaced people in Yemen and emergency support for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
“We are working here since 2005 when a massive earthquake hit Pakistan,” Dr. Khalid Mohammed Alothmani, Director KSRelief Pakistan, told Arab News in an interview this week, referring to a disaster in which about 75,000 people were killed in the country’s north. “We have carried out relief activities for quake and flood victims and focused our attention on several other areas.”
“We have joined hands together with our Pakistani brothers by working with them in times of need and will keep on doing so in the future as well,” Alothmani said.

Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf Bin Said Al-Maliki hands over 150 tons of dates from Saudi Arabia to the government of Pakistan in a ceremony held in Islamabad on May 23, 2019. (Photo Courtesy: KSRelief)

According to Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey 2018, 36.9 percent of households are “food insecure” while 18.3 percent face “severe” food insecurity. The survey also shows that 15 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition, the second highest rate in the region. About 44 percent of children in the same age bracket suffer from stunted growth, 32 percent are underweight and a majority of children under two years of age consume less than half of their daily energy requirements, with low levels of vitamins and minerals.
To combat malnutrition, this year, KSRelief said it had distributed 18,250 food packages containing essential items that benefited 91,250 poor Pakistanis in different parts of the country. About 15,679 meat packs were also distributed among 109,753 people.
According to a KSRelief report, approximately 600,000 Pakistanis have benefited from its food related programs in 2019.
The agency distributed 230 tons of dates this year, the report said. Out of these, 80 tons were distributed through the World Food Program and 150 tons through the government of Pakistan. The report said at least 396,000 people benefited from the dates in the most vulnerable areas across the country.
“Dates donated by Saudi Arabia each year reach vulnerable segments of our society,” said Imtiaz Ali at Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security. “They serve a dual purpose since they can be stored for a longer time and provide high nutrition as well.”

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

Updated 14 September 2020

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

  • Leaving corporate security behind, Maria Soomro has traveled solo around the country since the pandemic began
  • She documents her travels and uses YouTube and Instagram to provide tips on how to solo travel as a woman

RAWALPINDI: A few months ago, while doing a stable job in the banking sector, Maria Soomro decided to act on her gut instinct and leave behind the monotony and routine of her daily life to follow her dream of hitchhiking around Pakistan. 

30-year-old Soomro hails from Karachi and has been working in the banking sector since completing her university education. The corporate job gave her 40 days of annual leave which she utilized for travel, though she felt that something was missing. 

“I wasn’t fully able to immerse myself in enjoyment or the experience,” she told Arab News over the phone while traveling through Gilgit-Baltistan. “When I travel, I go to remote villages, off-the-beaten-path type places and get to know the locals, actually spend some time understanding where I am and who I am surrounded by. Five or 15 days don’t allow for that.” 

The idea of spending time doing what she loved as opposed to sitting at a desk kicked Soomro into high-gear. “I opted to turn the documenting of my travels, which I had been doing since 2015 on Instagram (@MariaSoomro_) and eponymous YouTube channel, into my full-time job.” 

Maria Soomro smiles for the camera in a ride she hitched near Burzil Pass, part of the historic caravan route between Srinagar and Gilgit on her Instagram page on September 11, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

In March of this year, Soomro headed out on her hitchhiking journey. Being a solo female traveler in Pakistan is a steadily growing trend, though a woman who hitchhikes is almost unheard of.

 “Budget traveling is my focus. The largest chunk of your budget ends up being spent on accommodation and transportation, and both of these things can be covered when you’re hitchhiking,” said Soomro. 

But her travel ethos is another reason hitchhiking was so attractive. To her, there is no better way than this to know the places one is traveling through. 

“This is a shortcut to get to know local communities, be it Pakistan or another country. When you ask for a lift, you get a special introduction to their home, their points of view, and you learn from them,” she said, adding that one can build contacts as a bonus who can be assets to solo travelers. 

Soomro estimates that her hitchhiking adventure has allowed her to meet over 300 people, all of whom, she maintains, contact through social media. “The more people you meet the more stories you hear and the more people you can share your own story with,” said she. 

Maria Soomro shares tips and tricks on solo travel including how to keep one's tent from blowing away in a shot she shares from Golden Beach, Balochistan, on her Instagram page on June 14, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

Instead of merely asking for a lift, Soomro has taken each ride as an opportunity to educate on what hitchhiking is, why she is doing it, and why she is traveling Pakistan. 

“It’s not very common here and I want to change that. The general consensus is that Pakistan is not safe, in particular for women, to travel alone.” 

When asked about how safe she has felt while traveling, Soomro said she follows “her gut instinct, assessing each ride” but also stressed the importance of “being prepared,” such as carrying personal protection equipment like pepper spray and knife. 

“My advice to Pakistanis who want to follow into my footsteps would be to take time to understand this kind of travel first and do not go straight for hitching,” she said. “Travel in groups and learn the areas you want to visit, know how roads work and, like any other passion, take time to educate yourself.” 

Soomro is doing her part in educating travel hopefuls on her YouTube channel and Instagram page with tips on how to hitchhike, where to go, and how to pitch a tent to withstand winds and what type of rides to expect around the country at present. 

“There are very few people who follow their passion in the world, and I am one of those crazy people since I thought I could do it,” said Soomro. “I am a free bird and travel is a part of me. I can’t imagine my life without this.”