June 2, 2020, The Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) organized a webinar themed, “Casting Wider Safety Nets to Reach Asia’s Most Vulnerable: Real-time Policy Recommendations during the Covid-19 Pandemic” in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Dr. Sania Nishtar, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation joined the webinar as a keynote speaker. Presenting real-time lessons of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program that is government of Pakistan’s safety net response amid COVID-19 shutdown, Dr. Nishtar said, “In two months, the program has distributed more than Rs.115 billion in cash to 9.5 million families, representing the most extensive social protection intervention in the history of the country. The program’s success is driven by its comprehensive approach to implementation based on leveraging existing Ehsaas systems and strengthening social safety nets, which helped to ensure that vulnerable households were provided with immediate cash support.” The webinar was joined by government officials from various countries who were directly engaged in the design and implementation of Covid-19 fiscal safety net responses as well as development practitioners, researchers, and innovators to share their ideas about reaching the most vulnerable.
June 1, 2020, Ehsaas hosted a virtual meeting with international donors, UN Agencies & other stakeholders to apprise them with regard to Ehsaas Emergency Cash distribution- update & potential way forward. The meeting discussed the program in terms of its, scale, speed of deployment and results along with transparency measures safeguarded by the government to reach out to the daily wage earners and labourers. The meeting was joined by Patchamuthu Illangovan, Country Director World Bank, Xiaohong Yang, Country Director Asian Development Bank, Julien Harneis, UN Resident Coordinator, Annabel Gerry, Country Director DFID, Board members and other stakeholders. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar chaired the meeting. Briefing donors, Dr. Nishtar stated, “Within Pakistan, the Ehsaas program has taken the lead in radically expanding social safety nets to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19. The Ehsaas Emergency Cash program which was launched within just 10 days of lockdown, has been the key social protection intervention of the government to support those effected. 12 million households from across the most vulnerable groups were identified through a combination of the existing socioeconomic registry maintained by Ehsaas, and SMS registration with stringent verification processes.” Donors and other stakeholders widely applauded the case of Ehsaas Emergency Cash amid COVID-19 crisis and appreciated that the case of Pakistan provides a good insight to other countries.
May 19, 2020 -Islamabad: Immediately following the newly launched disbursal to category-4 beneficiaries through PM-COVID19 fund by the Prime Minister, Dr. Sania Nishtar, PM’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation tweeted an explanatory video to elaborate the entire process for identification and payments to category-4 Ehsaas beneficiaries. Explaining the process, Dr. Nishtar assured, “The existing principles, processes and data analytics that have been applied to Ehsaas Emergency Cash categories 1-3 will be fully deployed in the use of PM COVID-19 donor funds for identification of category-4 beneficiaries. Rule-based criteria will be fully adhered to. The procedure of identification will be fully apolitical and free from human interference. All disbursements will be made after biometric verification and there will be full transparency in deployment of funds.” Watch here.
May 18, 2020 – Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan has formally launched the Ehsaas Emergency Cash disbursements to job-loss affectees through PM COVID-19 Fund. To inaugurate the disbursal process, Prime Minister visited an Ehsaas cash distribution site at Sports Complex, Islamabad where the first batch of job-loss/livelihood-loss affectees received cash assistance of Rs. 12,000 each through Ehsaas Emergency Cash system. The Prime Minister inquired from beneficiaries about the financial impacts in the aftermath of the Covid-19 emergency. “The government has taken different decisions to continue economic activities and has opened different sectors,” he said. PM’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar and other senior officials also accompanied the PM. Dr. Nishtar briefed the PM about the entire Ehsaas Emergency Cash process for identification of beneficiaries and payments through PM COVID-19 Fund.
May 11, 2020 – Islamabad: Since last Friday May 8, 2020 Ehsaas has commenced disbursements to beneficiaries under category 3 of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program. Till today, 163,419 category 3 beneficiaries identified through district administration have been paid out Rs. 1.961 billion. Concurrently, payments to category 2 beneficiaries, who entered the program through 8171 SMS service, are also underway. So far, 2.945 million category 2 beneficiaries have been served Ehsaas Emergency Cash worth Rs. 35.347 billion. Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation remarked, “The emergency cash transfers are providing purchasing power to labour class to buy food rations and meet their needs.” Payments to category 1 that includes regular Kafaalat beneficiaries have almost been completed with Rs. 54.303 billion paid out to 4.403 million beneficiaries. Cumulatively, so far, 7.512 million deserving families under categories I, II and III of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program have collected financial assistance of Rs.12,000 each that sums up to Rs. 91.611 billion.
May 8, 2020 -Islamabad: With the commencement of payments to category-3 beneficiaries on May 8, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation covered herself in Burqa and made an unannounced visit to the Ehsaas payment site at Nurpur Shahan in the outskirts of Bari Imam, Islamabad. She toured the site to get a first-hand look at the precautionary measures and biometric disbursement services being offered to Ehsaas Emergency Cash beneficiaries that fall under categories-2 and 3. While talking to the media, Dr. Nishtar commented, “This visit in disguise was intended to assess the campsite arrangements in terms of quality of services, transparency and accuracy in payment system and adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures.” She then continued, “Beneficiaries of the program are mainly the labour class whose means of income are badly affected by COVID-19 restrictions. I strongly believe that it adds value to policymaking when you go in the field and interact with people on your own to gain first-hand knowledge.” Footage here:
May 4, 2020 -Islamabad: On the approval of the federal government, National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) offices have resumed operations today countrywide to facilitate beneficiaries of Ehsaas Emergency Cash who were facing problems in withdrawing cash due to faulty biometric identification and registration of deaths of eligible family members. To get first-hand information about the facilitation being extended to Ehsaas beneficiaries by NADRA, PM’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar reviewed arrangements at newly opened NADRA registration and facilitation center in Islamabad. Chairman NADRA, Usman Yousaf Mobin was also present during the visit. Talking to press, Dr. Nishtar announced, “Easy solutions will be provided to Ehsaas Emergency Cash recipients within 24 hours to complete biometric identifications & death registrations. Death registration fee of Rs. 50 has also been waived off to facilitate beneficiaries.”
May 2, 2020 -Islamabad: The Prime Minister launched a web-portal soliciting applications from those who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and announced to commit the PM’s COVID-19 Relief fund to those who will qualify for aid. While opening the portal, the PM said, “I have made the decision that my COVID 19 fund will be used to give emergency cash to those who have lost their livelihoods, as a result of the COVID 19 crisis. I am opening a web-portal so that we can begin receiving applications. Those who will qualify for assistance will get Emergency Cash of Rs. 12,000. I encourage all of you to donate. For each rupee donated by the donors, 4 rupees will be committed by the Government”. Speaking to the media after the opening of the portal, Dr. Sania Nishtar said, “We feel honoured that the Prime Minister has entrusted Ehsaas to utilize these funds.” She said, further adding, “To-date, Ehsaas Emergency Cash of Rs. 83 billion has been distributed among 6.8 million families in a transparent manner.” To apply for assistance, the web-portal can be accessed here.
April 29, 2020 -Islamabad: Chris Kaye, Country Director for World Food Programme Pakistan together with his team called on Dr. Sania Nishtar, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation at Ehsaas Offices in Islamabad. The meeting discussed several potential collaborations around supporting the vulnerable families with regard to COVID-19 and post COVID-19 context. From Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD), Yousaf Khan, Secretary BISP was also present at the occasion.
April 24, 2020 -Islamabad: To ensure transparency, Ehsaas has launched the information portal, making details of Ehsaas Emergency Cash disbursements available to the public. The approval for the launch of this portal had been accorded by the Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 22, 2020. While addressing a press conference along with Dr. Shahbaz Gill on the official release of information portal at Press Information Department, SAPM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar said, “The portal transparently reflects the amount released to Ehsaas partner banks for payments to eligible families, and the number of families who have withdrawn money.” To explore real time data relating to disbursements, the portal can be accessed here. About responses to all applicants under categories 2 and 3, Dr. Nishtar announced that applicants of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program would receive the final SMS regarding payment of the amount or rejection based on their eligibility within the next 15 days. Full Footage of press conference can be watched here.
April 23, 2020 -Islamabad: Through a virtual meeting, Dr. Sania Nishtar, SAPM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation connected with Gerda Verburg, Coordinator and UN Assistant Secretary-General, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting focused on Nutrition, COVID-19 and multisectoral platforms. Dr. Nishtar briefed the multi-sectoral & multi-stakeholder approach being followed under Ehsaas to address nutrition issues in the wake of COVID-19. Verburg lauded the nutrition specific initiatives and collaborations being undertaken by Pakistan to tackle challenges posed by COVID-19 and said, “The spread of COVID-19 has unprecedented effects on nutrition globally. Pakistan’s example of bringing over 100 different actors together on Covid-19 and nutrition is very inspiring and we encourage other countries to do the same.” The SUN Movement Secretariat is based in Geneva and is responsible for liaising with SUN Countries and ensuring the catalytic spirit of the Movement is embedded in the efforts of all actors.
April 23, 2020 – Islamabad: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar said that Rs. 68.885 billion have been disbursed among 5.74 million deserving families under the first two categories of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program. Addressing a press conference together with Dr. Shahbaz Gill, the SAPM said that 80 per cent of the payment process under the first category of the program has been completed while payments are being speedily made for the second category (SMS beneficiaries). Dr. Sania said that around 35 million applicants were rejected after scrutiny on the basis of different parameters like wealth profiling, poverty score database, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) statistics, more than one family member applicants, etc. Also, for payments to third category of beneficiaries, lists are being finalised through the help of district administrations, she added. Full Footage here.