Baqar wants city’s poor mothers included in social protection plans

By Our Correspondent
October 03, 2023

Caretaker Sindh chief minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar on Monday directed the provincial social protection department to develop and efficiently implement an overarching need-driven and rights-based cross-sectoral social protection strategy for the poverty-stricken districts, including Karachi’s slum areas.

“The poverty ratio in the Katchi Abadis, slum areas and rural areas of Karachi is equally higher than that of the rural areas of the province, so Karachi must be included in social protection programmes.”

Baqar chaired a meeting with social protection department officials at the CM House, where Social Protection Board Vice Chairman Haris Gazdar and CEO Samiullah Shaikh briefed him about the department’s working and its programmes launched by the government.

They said that under the Sindh Social Protection Strategy, an effective management information system (MIS) for the social registry has been developed. Under the programme, two feasibility studies, the Food Security Bhook Mitao programme and the Benazir Women Agriculture Workers programme, have been conducted.

The meeting was told that the Mother & Child Support Programme (MCSP) and the Nutrition Conditional Cash Transfer programme had been launched by the government.

The programme is being implemented as a pilot project in two districts, Tharparkar and Umerkot, to enable the uptake of maternal and child health services by vulnerable rural women.

The pilot programme had been initiated in May 2021 in four union councils, and was scaled up to cover the entire districts of Tharparkar and Umerkot in May 2022.

The interim CM was told that the MIS has been set up, and that 62,000 pregnant women have been enrolled in it, while Rs165 million have been disbursed.

The meeting was told that a Rs48.3 billion project for the Strengthening Social Protection Delivery System had been launched with the assistance of the World Bank, while health partners, including the Peoples Primary Healthcare Initiative and the Sindh Health Department, had started their services.

The system has two components: under the first, the task is to establish an appropriate institutional framework to improve formulation, functional consolidation and coordination, policy planning, delivery and monitoring of social protection interventions while also strengthening administrative capacities.

The second component is the MCSP, which includes strengthening and increasing the scale of the support programme via conditional cash transfer to pregnant women and mothers with children under the age of two years, encouraging them to utilise maternal, newborn and child healthcare services.

Baqar was told that it is a 60-month (January 2023 to December 2027) programme, predominantly for the rural districts of the province. He said he would chair the board meeting of the social protection department next week to further strengthen the social welfare initiatives in the province.