Back in March, as COVID-19 spread across the globe, I returned to Lahore from New York and soon realized that people had not realized the gravity of the situation in Pakistan. I took to social media and drew an artwork a day to spread awareness and compiled resources on my website. These efforts have led to the development of a website for donations and collaborations with volunteers and non-profits who are working to help things on-ground. These resources were also used to reach out to overseas Pakistans via a blog post found here.

I also donated my art prints for a fundraising effort, Prints for Pandemic Relief. The initiative helped raise over 4 million PKR for relief partners. You can read about the initiative here.

Artwork for other initiatives are listed below.

Green Volunteers
Digital Rights Foundation
Fatima Bhutto & Sanam Maher
Mask Banao

A Website for Donation Efforts

Many nonprofit and volunteer organizations were working on-ground across Pakistan, but there was no verifiable list of compiled efforts and ways to donate. I made a Google doc that listed the organizations by geographical area and how people could donate. This list was then developed into a website by volunteers.

Making DIY PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)

The shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers- and also those working in essential services (policemen, grocery store workers, deliverymen, volunteers…)- was jarring. I spoke to @greenvolunteersofficial who are working to distribute PPE around Pakistan, and asked people to donate to help their efforts.

When experts began recommending that everyone wear a mask to stop the spread of the virus, there was a realization that there weren’t enough masks available. Researchers were studying the effectiveness of DIY masks in times of crisis- and said that people should make their our own masks so that medical-grade equipment can go to those at the frontline. I put together DIY solutions for masks and face shields using household items and school supplies.

These resources were shared across social media and were written about in a news article here.

Visualizing efforts for the UN to raise awareness

WeTransfer in supporting the United Nations compiled artworks that talk about the pandemic and raise awareness for ways to help. My art on donating also made the list- and I’m esp happy they chose this one because the design has both English and Urdu languages. Check out the feature here.

Feminist e-magazine by Digital Rights Foundation

I contributed my art and designed the cover artwork for The Digital Rights Foundation‘s first issue of their feminist e-magazine, Digital 5050. The magazine features powerful stories, visuals, photographs and videos on the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in Pakistan. You can read the issue here.

Paying tribute to Healthcare Workers

This artwork was made as a tribute to health professionals and to bring to light their demands for more personal protective equipment (PPE) without which their lives are in danger while treating patients. According to @greenvolunteersofficial doctors in Punjab and KPK don’t have masks and PPE kits. Some of them have been using single-use masks and gloves for the last 3 to 4 days.

This artwork was accompanied by bank details for PPE donations. It was later used as the artwork for the month’s issue of Paperazzi magazine.

Domestic Violence Helpline

This artwork is made in collaboration with who work on gender-based violence in Pakistan. They wanted to inform the public about the helpline to call for  cases of domestic violence in Pakistan. The helpline has been set up by Ministry of Human Rights; is operational 24/7; and is affiliated with safe houses and shelter homes around the country.

Because of the lockdown restrictions imposed by the pandemic, women and children are locked in their homes with their abusers and their options of support or escape limited. Domestic violence around the world is on the rise, a public health crisis on top of a pandemic. The UN is calling it the shadow pandemic.


I also drew for renowned authors, Fatima Bhutto and Sanam Maher’s new initiative #StayHomeStayReading. They invited writers from around the world to send videos of them reading in order to support their work since bookstores were closed and lit events canceled. They hoped the videos would also bring some comfort to everyone constantly consuming stressful news. You can find the videos on their Instagram accounts at @fbhutto and @topbastard.

Mask Banao! (Make a Mask!)

I contributed art to a new initiative by a group of volunteers called Mask Banao.

They made a guide on masks at @maskbanao where they show you how to make your own and explain why it’s important to wear them. The artwork asked people to take a picture of themselves wearing a mask and and tagging @maskbanao and using #MeraMask to spread the word. The message was- Stay safe! Wear a mask!

Illustrations for social media

This is artwork I drew while processing the spread of the pandemic. Some of it was as catharsis, some for spreading awareness about the dire situation we are in. The artwork was made under the Creative Commons License for Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives.

Lockdown Now!
These were the first images I drew calling for a lockdown. I wrote: “According to some projected figures, it will take drastic measures of suppressing social contact and keeping people home until a vaccine is created to stop millions from dying around the world. This could take months. The world as we knew it will never be the same again. Personally, understanding what’s ahead helps. And I put my faith not in the flawed political structures that brought us here, but in individuals. As we get locked down, we’ll have to keep the disenfranchised afloat collectively. Our priority should be life itself- not the economy- not what we’ve been told is the measure of a nation’s success. Donate now and in the coming months, prepare yourself and those around you for what’s ahead.”

Masculinity and Coronavirus
“I have my theories behind the gendered response to coronavirus- where women have stayed indoors and men have refused to do so. It seems that women have always been told to stay in, and men have a hard time having those same liberties taken away. I got an email from a volunteer saying that in his village, the women and children were staying at home- but the men were not complying with quarantine measures. He said he badly needed ideas to help, to somehow convince or scare them into waking up to the reality. This needs to be a collective effort. Men need to explain to other men, in their own language, why they need to stay in. There is no vaccine for Corona Virus yet and until there is, imagine this is the new normal.

If you have connections in a village, call them up. These are often areas that NGOs and volunteers can’t reach. Everything about our crisis response needs to be a collective effort, because basically, there is no other way.”

Corporate Responsibility
I addressed corporations in Pakistan to ask what they were doing to help in the crisis. I asked these questions:

1. Have you given your workforce paid leave? I’m hearing reports of staff being fired and companies asking nonprofits to help them instead. Do companies not have a safety net for their employees? If not, can’t the top management (who have houses and can pay for groceries) take a pay cut so their staff can live through this?

2. What amount are you donating to the relief efforts? You profit off millions of Pakistanis, we know the figures, but what are you willing to spend on us in a global health crisis? What is your CSR strategy here?

3. How are you using your vast resources and distribution channels in relief efforts? Are you changing production to PPE for our doctors who face grave shortages? Or are you offering your empty factories as quarantine wards? Are you using your trucks for supplies to reach remote areas? How are you innovating in a pandemic? Are you partnering with experts?

The week of this being posted, Unilever released a statement outlining their relief response.

End Hunger Now!
“As the country gets locked down, daily wagers and their families are the ones to be most severely hit. It’s been calculated that a family needs an average of PKR 4000 to feed themselves for a month. That’s what a single meal at a fancy restaurant can cost for many of us. According to the WHO, at least half of the world’s 7.6 billion people cannot access healthcare even in normal times. Because of this pandemic, the world can no longer ignore this- because as the rich have learnt, we are all only as healthy as our sickest, most vulnerable people. If at this point, we are able to design and implement a system that reaches everyone- we can change structural inequalities. It’s the year 2020- no one anywhere should go hungry when there is enough wealth in this world. This is not a utopian fantasy but the redistribution of wealth activists and academics have been talking about for decades. It never happened because those in power never cared enough, and the rest of us never put enough pressure. But the time to change is now here.”

More of my art and thoughts on the pandemic and climate change can be found at Ideas and Futures here. I also am very active on my Instagram and use it to primarily talk about social issues.