Salman Yousafzai

PESHAWAR: Khadija Bibi is looking after her children after the death of her husband few years ago and she is running a small garments shop in her house in Peshawar to make ends meet.

The situation was alright until two weeks ago when the government went ahead with lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus and now her family is left with nothing to make ends meet.

Khadija Bibi is not educated and she is not aware of the developments on national and international media. However, she has been given some hope by her female neighbour friend by telling her about the Ehsaas Program announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan to help the people in need. Her friend has also helped her by sending her CNIC number on 8171 through SMS to ascertain her eligibility for the program. However, a reply has been received which says the district administration office must be contacted.

Now Khadija is concerned that how she can contact the district administration office as all roads are closed and public transport is not available and there is no male in the family to go there.

The government has decided to provide Rs12,000 each to 11.2 million families in Pakistan through Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program, but the people are facing difficulties in this big relief campaign of the government. Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Welfare Sania Nishtar said that people can send SMS on 8171 and they may get three kinds of replies. She said the reply will say either the sender is eligible, non-eligible or he/she may contact the district administration office.

Aminur Rehman, a labourer in Buner, said he also sent an SMS and got the same reply i.e. contact the district administration office. He told TNN that the process of getting relief is complicated and very hard for a labourer to understand. He said he doesn’t know for how many days he will have to struggle for getting relief.

Khadija said she will run the affairs of her house till normalisation of the situation if she got the relief. In the given situation, she said, she even can borrow things for her shop as all markets are closed.

According to the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program website, the program has been planned in the context of the economic hardship being experienced by the vulnerable due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The financial assistance under the program is meant to help them buy rations so that they don’t go hungry. The program covers 12 million families; 12,000 per family, total budget Rs144 billion. An SMS campaign will be the entry point to identify these beneficiaries. To check eligibility for emergency cash, people can send their CNIC numbers to 8171. For the ease of applicants, emergency cash application web-portal has also been developed to check eligibility. Those who are being asked to contact district administration (through SMS) can register themselves at the web-portal without visiting the office.