Ehsas Emergency Program – How to Join in 2024 – comeapk

Ehsas Emergency Program

Ehsas Emergency Program: A Lifeline for the Underprivileged

The Ehsas Emergency Program, launched by the Government of Pakistan in 2020, represents a pivotal step in the country’s efforts to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program, a cornerstone of the broader Ehsas (meaning “compassion”) initiative, aims to provide financial relief to the most vulnerable segments of the population. With the pandemic exacerbating poverty and unemployment, the Ehsas Emergency Program emerged as a critical intervention to support low-income families, ensuring their survival during an unprecedented global crisis.

Origins and Objectives

The Ehsas Emergency Program is part of the larger Ehsas framework, which was initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in March 2019. The overarching goal of the Ehsas initiative is to reduce inequality, invest in people, and lift lagging districts. When COVID-19 struck, it became evident that immediate financial assistance was necessary to prevent widespread economic distress. Thus, the government swiftly rolled out the Ehsas Emergency Program to provide cash assistance to those hit hardest by the pandemic.

The primary objectives of the program include:

  1. Providing Immediate Relief: Disbursing direct cash payments to the poorest families to help them meet their basic needs.
  2. Supporting Livelihoods: Ensuring that families can sustain themselves during lockdowns and economic slowdowns.
  3. Reducing Economic Shock: Minimizing the long-term economic impact on low-income households and helping them to avoid falling deeper into poverty.

Implementation and Coverage

The program was designed to be comprehensive and inclusive, targeting approximately 12 million families, which translates to around 80 million individuals. The selection criteria for beneficiaries included those already registered under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and other vulnerable groups identified through a national socio-economic database.

To streamline the process, the government employed digital technologies and data analytics. Beneficiaries were selected using the National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) and were verified through the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). The use of digital platforms ensured transparency and efficiency, reducing the risk of corruption and mismanagement.

Eligible families received a one-time cash grant of PKR 12,000 (approximately USD 75). The funds were disbursed through designated payment centers, bank branches, and mobile wallets, making it accessible even to those in remote areas. The transparency of the process was further enhanced by using SMS campaigns, enabling potential beneficiaries to check their eligibility status and application progress through their mobile phones.

Impact and Achievements

The Ehsas Emergency Program has had a significant impact on the socio-economic fabric of Pakistan. By providing timely financial assistance, the program helped millions of families avoid extreme poverty and hunger. According to government reports, the program disbursed over PKR 203 billion (approximately USD 1.3 billion) by the end of 2020, making it one of the largest social safety net initiatives in the country’s history.

Some notable achievements include:

  1. Poverty Alleviation: The cash grants provided immediate relief to families, allowing them to purchase essential items such as food, medicine, and other necessities.
  2. Economic Stability: By injecting cash into the hands of the most vulnerable, the program helped to sustain local economies, particularly in rural areas where economic activities were severely disrupted.
  3. Digital Inclusion: The program encouraged the use of digital financial services, promoting financial inclusion among the unbanked population.

The World Bank and other international organizations have lauded the Ehsas Emergency Program for its scale and efficiency. It has been cited as a model for other countries facing similar challenges, demonstrating how digital tools can enhance the delivery of social protection programs.

Challenges and Criticisms

Despite its successes, the Ehsas Emergency Program faced several challenges and criticisms. One of the main issues was the identification and verification of beneficiaries. While the use of digital databases was innovative, it also excluded some of the poorest families who lacked proper documentation or access to mobile phones. This digital divide highlighted the need for more inclusive mechanisms to reach the most marginalized groups.

There were also reports of technical glitches and delays in the disbursement process. In some areas, beneficiaries faced difficulties accessing payment centers due to lockdown restrictions or lack of transportation. Additionally, while the cash grants provided short-term relief, they were not sufficient to address the long-term economic fallout of the pandemic.

Future Prospects

The Ehsas Emergency Program has set a precedent for future social protection initiatives in Pakistan. Building on its success, the government plans to expand the Ehsas framework to include more comprehensive and sustainable support measures. This includes enhancing the National Socio-Economic Registry, improving digital infrastructure, and developing targeted programs for different vulnerable groups such as women, children, and the elderly.

The experience gained from the Ehsas Emergency Program will be invaluable in responding to future crises, whether they are health-related, economic, or environmental. It underscores the importance of having robust social safety nets and the capability to deploy them swiftly and effectively.

How to Join the Ehsas Emergency Program

Joining the Ehsas Emergency Program is designed to be a straightforward process to ensure that financial assistance reaches those who need it most. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply for and join the program:

Eligibility Criteria

Before applying, it’s essential to understand the eligibility criteria. The program primarily targets:

  • Families already registered under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
  • Low-income households identified through the National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER).
  • Daily wage earners and laborers affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • Other vulnerable groups such as widows, orphans, and persons with disabilities.

Application Process

  1. Checking Eligibility via SMS:
    • Send CNIC on 8171. This SMS service allows you to check your eligibility status.
    • If you are eligible, you will receive a confirmation message with further instructions.
  2. Verification Process:
    • Eligible applicants will be verified through the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to ensure the accuracy of their details and prevent fraud.
    • This verification process includes cross-checking the applicant’s data with various databases to confirm eligibility.
  3. Receiving the Cash Grant:
    • Once verified, applicants will be informed about the nearest payment center, bank branch, or mobile wallet service where they can collect their cash grant.
    • The cash grant amounting to PKR 12,000 will be disbursed either through direct cash payment, bank transfer, or mobile wallet.
  4. Visit Payment Centers:
    • Applicants must visit the designated payment centers with their original CNIC for identity verification and cash collection.
    • Payment centers are established across the country, including remote and rural areas, to ensure accessibility for all eligible families.

Using the Digital Platform

For those who have access to digital services, the Ehsas Emergency Program also offers an online portal. Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Online Registration:
    • Visit the official Ehsas Emergency Program website.
    • Complete the registration form by providing your CNIC number and other required details.
    • Submit the form and wait for the verification process.
  2. Track Your Application:
    • You can track your application online. You will need to enter your CNIC number to see if you are eligible and if your application has been processed.
  3. Helpline and Support:
    • For any issues or queries, the program provides a helpline number and support services. Applicants can call the helpline for assistance with the application process or to resolve any problems they encounter.

Outreach and Awareness Campaigns

To ensure that information about the program reaches everyone, particularly those in remote areas, the government has initiated extensive outreach and awareness campaigns. These campaigns include:

  • Media Campaigns: Television, radio, and social media platforms are used to spread information about the program, its benefits, and how to apply.
  • Community Outreach: Local government officials and community leaders are involved in disseminating information and assisting people with the application process.
  • SMS Alerts: Regular SMS alerts are sent to citizens to inform them about the program and guide them through the application steps.

Challenges in Joining

While the program aims to be inclusive, there are challenges:

  • Access to Information: Some of the poorest families may not have access to the necessary information or communication tools to apply.
  • Documentation: Lack of proper documentation can hinder the application process for some eligible individuals.
  • Technical Issues: Applicants may face technical issues while using the digital platforms or during the SMS verification process.

To address these challenges, the government is continuously working to improve the outreach and support mechanisms, ensuring that help is available to those who face difficulties during the application process.

Conclusion

The Ehsas Emergency Program has been a lifeline for millions of Pakistanis during one of the most challenging periods in recent history. By providing immediate financial relief, the program not only alleviated poverty but also stabilized local economies and promoted digital inclusion. While there were challenges and areas for improvement, the overall impact of the program has been positive and far-reaching.

As Pakistan continues to navigate the post-pandemic landscape, the lessons learned from the Ehsas Emergency Program will be crucial in shaping future social protection policies. Ensuring that no one is left behind, particularly in times of crisis, will remain a central tenet of the Ehsas initiative, driving the country towards a more equitable and resilient future.