Dr. Sania Nishtar Shares Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program With Int’l Donors

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Ehsaas on Thursday hosted a webinar with donors, international development partners, and UN agencies to share key findings of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program Report penned by the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar.

Convening the virtual meeting, Dr. Sania Nishtar shared her experience around the design and implementation of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program that will support 16.9 million families affected by the COVID-19 induced economic shutdown with cash handout of Rs 12, 000 each.

Dr. Sania Nishtar was joined by Country Directors and Heads of International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and other agencies.

Narrating her experience, she shared, “Pakistan which is the fifth-largest Country in the world, there are 24 million breadwinners who rely on daily wages or are self-employed in the informal economy and life for them virtually came to a standstill with the implementation of a lockdown in March 2020.”

Adding further, she said, “To respond to this challenge, the government of Pakistan created the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program, which is the largest social protection program ever in the country’s history. This end to end digital program was rolled-out within 10 days of the lockdown to deliver one-time emergency cash grants. US$ 1.23 billion were allocated to support more than 16.9 million families, which cover around 109 million people which is approximately 50% of the Country’s population.”

Elaborating about how Ehsaas digital infrastructure was leveraged for emergency cash, the special assistant continued, “Ehsaas Emergency Cash report takes stock of the digital systems and tools deployed in the design and roll-out of the program, which built on digital capabilities established over the past year as part of the overarching Ehsaas framework. To ensure compliance with the rule-based procedures, a new biometric payment system, the demand side SMS and web service, and a wealth-profiling data analytics mechanism were ingrained in the roll-out of Ehsaas Emergency Cash. It made the government more agile, data-driven, experimental, and ambitious.”

The donors richly praised the report and congratulated Dr. Sania Nishtar and the entire Ehsaas team for taking the lead to reach out to multi-million deserving households in a transparent, cost-effective, and fast manner.

The inclusive design of the program was lauded that it has strengthened safety nets and financial inclusion, both of which would bring lasting benefits to recipients and to Pakistan as a whole.

They also acknowledged that the case of Pakistan and lessons learnt from the design and real-time evaluation of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program provide learning that can also inform initiatives in other countries.

It was suggested to convene another round of cross-country experience sharing the session around the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program.


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