Islamabad: A delegation of USAID, headed by Michael Schiffer, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Asia, called on Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation & Social Safety Ms. Shazia Marri at Embassy of Pakistan Washington D.C.
The meeting discussed in detail various interventions being made under the umbrella of Benazir Income Support Program, to provide relief to the vulnerable sections of the society. The Federal Minister briefed the USAID delegation about the devastations caused by catastrophic floods of 2022, which inundated one third of the country, and affected 33 million people including 04 million children, and hundreds of thousands of pregnant women. She also updated on the latest status of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts and how BISP was helping in this effort.
The Minister said that BISP over the last 14 years has evolved into a successful model and it was serving the poorest of the poor without any discrimination. She highlighted that National Social Economic Registry has enabled the Government of Pakistan with a scientific database to the reach out to the most deserving and marginalized strata of society in Pakistan. The Minister informed the delegation that around 8.9 million families were being provided financial assistance under the BISP, which would be increased up to 9 million by June 2023, and up to 10 million by 2024, she continued.
She said financial assistance was provided directly to the women as family heads, which clearly reflected the priorities of the BISP program towards women empowerment. Likewise, the conditional transfer in education and health sector were aimed at socio-economic uplift of the poor families with education, better health and skill development. She informed the delegation that 364 Benazir Nashwonuma facilitation Centers were operating across Pakistan to address the nutritional issues of the women and children. On provision of relief in the aftermath of floods, the delegation was informed that an amount of Rs. 70 billion was disbursed to 2.5 million affected families through BISP. The Federal Minister appreciated continued support of World Bank, ADB and GIZ towards social safety and poverty alleviation. She mentioned about Pakistan Crisis-Resilient Social Protection (CRISP) Program of the World Bank to help establish an adaptive social protection. Minister informed that through National Poverty Graduation Program (NPGP), BISP beneficiaries were being provided assets and training in order to graduate them out of poverty.
The Federal Minister acknowledged the contributions of USAID and said that Pakistan looked forward to scaling up its partnership with the Agency in expanding the outreach of the program. Mr. Michael Schiffer lauded the role of BISP in social protection sector especially in providing swift relief to the calamity affected population. He underscored that USAID and the US Administration looked forward to strengthening its friendship and partnership with Pakistan. Mr. Michael Schiffer stated that USAID would like to balance its portfolio vis-à-vis allocation of sectoral assistance in social protection, poverty alleviation, nutrition, and education. He informed that he would be visiting Pakistan in late spring. He expressed particular interest in visiting the flood affected areas to obtain first-hand knowledge and experience.