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Canadian Sikhs step up to provide Punjab flood relief

Harjinder Singh, South Asia Program Coordinator – Doing review of the extent of damage and reporting to central office for further aid requirements.

In August 2019 Punjab experienced its worst flood in decades. Many areas by the Sutlej river have been severely affected due to torrential rain and the release of excess water from the Bhakra Nangal Dam. So serious is the situation that the Punjab Government has declared it a natural calamity.

However, the most serious problems come when the flood recedes. The economic damage is in the form of thousands of acres in damaged crops and dead farm animals. But even more concerning is the health risks. Rotting animal carcasses and polluted water carrying industrial waste have created a heighten risk of disease outbreaks.

Supporting flood victims has become an immediate priority for Canadian based NGO SAF International. Since 2014 SAF International has been supporting poverty reduction in Punjab through various initiatives but is now organizing efforts to support flood victims. To address this unexpected priority SAF has received fundraising support for numerous BC Gurdwara Sahibs including Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and Dasmesh Darbar.

In Punjab, SAF has also received great support from common folks wanting to help flood victims. Since the flood hit over 500 volunteers from 50 villages have joined the NGO to help collect dry food donations, distribute food to stranded families, and sort and repackage rations to be delivered after the water completely recedes.  The volunteers also distributed over 150 mattresses to an impoverished Muslim community in Ropar who had their huts destroyed by the flood.

In Sultanpur Lodhi, SAF set up a first aid medical camp that consists of four doctors working 12-hour shifts and serving over 150 patients every day. Their volunteers even built a temporary dock to be able to deliver aid in flood affected areas.  After the water recedes volunteers will organize into teams to clean-up and restore affected homes in the area.

SAF also plans to use funds to provide a month’s worth of groceries to over 1500 flood victim families. The team also continues to survey affected areas to understand the damage and the type of aid required.  

Punjab is a land facing many problems but dealing with the flood damage is the need of the hour. Many non-profits and individuals, with support from the Punjabi diaspora, are coming together and providing any possible support.  However, continued support from Punjabi communities is necessary to limit the adverse economic and health impact of the flood. To support the work of SAF, you can donate online www.safinternational.org

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