The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the provision of 500 new scholarships for Pakistani university students from flood-affected districts. The scholarships aim to help students complete their degrees, enabling them to contribute to rebuilding their communities.
Pakistan faced the disastrous floods in 2022, which was the tenth most expensive climate disaster to hit any nation over the last decade. The floods caused a loss of over $3 billion, resulted in more than 1,700 deaths, and displaced eight million people.
In January, international donors met in Geneva and committed over $9 billion to help Pakistan recover from the flood. However, according to the United Nations, so far, only 40% of the pledges made by donors have been fulfilled.
The announcement of the scholarships was made by US Ambassador Donald Blome at an event celebrating the achievements of female scholars at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Islamabad, honouring International Women’s Day. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lieutenant General Inam Haider Malik, HEC Executive Director Dr Shaista Sohail, USAID Mission Director Reed Aeschliman, university vice-chancellors, students, and alumni were present at the event.
The US government, through USAID, has supported scholarships for meritorious yet financially disadvantaged students to pursue higher education at top Pakistani universities. The US government has already awarded over 6,000 scholarships through the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Programme in partnership with the HEC. Sixty per cent of these scholarships have been awarded to women as part of the US government’s support for women’s higher education.
The HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed commended the US government’s support to strategic sectors in Pakistan, particularly the higher education sector. He added that the scholarships have not only helped secure university education for many underprivileged students, lifting themselves and their families out of poverty but have also helped supply Pakistan with crucial skills and knowledge sets to drive the economy.
Jennifer Andleeb, a scholarship alumna, shared the challenges she faced in attaining higher education and how her scholarship transformed her life. She emphasized that positive changes in society could only happen by investing in education and that empowered, educated women are critical to ensuring a brighter future for Pakistan.
The provision of these scholarships for flood-affected students shows that the United States is committed to helping Pakistan rebuild and recover from the devastating floods.