Some of the world’s leading tennis stars, including men’s number one Novak Djokovic, have rallied behind relief efforts led by Pakistan’s top tennis player to help feed people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Indian ace Sania Mirza are among a star-studded lineup of present and former athletes who have donated their signed memorabilia to the Stars Against Hunger auction.
The initiative was launched last week by doubles specialist Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, who has been raising funds and delivering door-to-door ration packs to poor families in Pakistan suffering thanks to the country’s partial lockdown.
“This COVID-19 has affected every single one among us, in every country, so I’m just trying to play my part within the best way I can and trying to assist the needy, the poor and therefore the daily wagers during this pandemic,” Qureshi, world-ranked 50, told Al Jazeera on Monday.
His foundation Stop War Start Tennis together with Rizq, a non-profit organisation, has thus far helped feed quite 2,500 families in underprivileged areas of the country’s most populous province of Punjab.
“I desire tennis has given me this chance and platform to assist these people out immediately and it is a need of the hour also ,” the 40-year old said. “The most vital thing is compassion towards humanity.”
British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, former fast bowlers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, and international squash legend Jahangir Khan have also pitched in with autographed gloves, shirt, ball, helmet and racket respectively.
The online auction which closes on March 24, aims to boost up to $220,000 to support 10,000 families.
Tens of thousands of labourers and other daily wage workers in Pakistan have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic that’s testing the country’s weak health infrastructure and struggling economy.
More than 42,000 people are infected by the coronavirus within the South Asian country of 220 million, but the death rate has remained relatively low with 903 deaths.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated that his government chose a technique of implementing a targeted and incremental lockdown to “balance the necessity to save lots of people from corona[virus] and therefore the continuation of economic activity”.
“It has not been easy,” Qureshi said about things within the country.
“There are more people getting suffering from hunger actually than COVID-19 itself … and therein the govt can’t reach each and each house and family.”
Hence, voluntary aid groups and athletes have stepped in to lend their support in efforts to supply adequate supplies of food and other essentials to Pakistan’s poorest.
Former national cricket captain Shahid Afridi is among them.
The former cricketer through his charity has distributed food supplies, disinfectant soap and other essentials to 22,000 families in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Balochistan and Pakistan-administred Kashmir, according to local media reports.