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Ehsaas Program helps vulnerable households during COVID-19 crisis

PESHAWAR: Amid the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people belonging to low-income groups, the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program proved to be a timely initiative by the federal government as it helped in providing relief to the poorest households all over the country.

The families which have been supported through this initiative were mainly those who deserved financial assistance as the lockdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic had literally stalled economic activities in the country, hitting mostly the daily-wagers.

The Ehsaas Emergency Cash program helped Gul Bano’s family at a time when there was no one to help her financially. She narrates that her family was hit hard by the lockdown. “We had nothing at home to cook. My children were asking for money and we had no money,” she recalls.

Married at the age of 14, Gul Bano is now a mother of seven children. The family relies upon Gul Bano’s husband’s livelihood which he earns from hunting and catching birds alive in the mountains and selling the same in the nearby bazaar. Having complaints of seasonal allergies, she forced her husband to stay at home during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic fearing the infection might intensify his problems.

“Then the bad days started,” she says. “During that period, my husband was not able to earn a livelihood as a result, we had to starve for days,” Bano adds.

Gul Bano exhausted all the options to get some loan from her neighbors and other relatives but nobody was ready to help her out. “Everyone was offering the same excuse that their living was also hit hard by the pandemic,” she narrates.

Gul Bano was told by one of her neighbors that the government was distributing Rs12,000 under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program. The neighbor was kind enough and applied on behalf of Gul Bano as she is illiterate and couldn’t use a mobile for the service. “After a few days I got the message that my name is approved for the cash assistance,” she informs.

“I am very grateful to the government for launching the cash assistance program which provided timely relief to many destitute families like ours. I bought some ration, shoes, and clothes for the children from the bazaar. Besides, I bought some household items from the wholesale market and set up a small shop at my home to manage my expenses. I am still running the shop and helping my family,” Gul Bano continues.

Like Gul Bano’s, hundreds of other families benefited from the government’s initiative at a time when they had no other means to survive hunger. Rabia Gul, a resident of Parachinar says the government should continue the cash assistance program in the future as well because it provided relief to the poverty-stricken families in the time of Covid19. “I was extremely delighted when I received Rs12000 cash assistance. I returned some debt and bought household items for the family,” she says.

Ibrahim Shah, who belongs to Lalma area of the district Kurram says he might have started begging, had he not received the cash assistance from the government.  He also appeals to the government to continue this program as a large number of people are still living under the poverty line and are not finding ways to manage their expenses.

The Ehsaas Emergency Cash program was launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan in April 2020 to provide relief to vulnerable families in the context of the economic hardship being experienced by them due to the coronavirus crisis. The financial assistance under the program was meant to help them buy rations so that they may not face starvation. Under the Ehsaas Cash Assistance program, a total of Rs203 billion were doled out among more than 15 million families as each deserving family was given Rs12,000. This includes at least 33.1 families from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This initiative of the federal government has been appreciated even at some international forums.

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