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In the backdrop of the outbreak of coronavirus in Pakistan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar has asked the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to close the Kafaalat registration centres across 15 districts across the country involved in the registration of Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries under the federal government's Ehsaas Programnme.

Corresponding to this move, the Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries' registration drive has been suspended till April 5, 2020.

"Since COVID-19 outbreak has now been classified as a pandemic, Ehsaas has come up with preventive measures for Kafaalat beneficiaries to ensure their safety, while trying to continue biometrically-enabled Kafaalat payments in the field. Taking into consideration, the current situation, wherein corona epidemic has potentially affected several areas of Pakistan, Kafaalat registration centres mobilized by the NADRA across 15 districts of Pakistan have been advised to suspend registration drive (with effect from) March 16, 2020 till April 5, 2020," said a statement from Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division on Tuesday.

Alongside that, Ehsaas has issued precautionary protocols to stringently comply with sanitization, hygiene and social distance, while making biometrically-enabled payments to Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries, the statement added.

Sania Nishtar, the statement said, visited an outlet in Islamabad and demonstrated the precautionary procedure to the women who had gathered at the point of sales to get newly-released tranche of Rs 9,000 that includes previous arrears, to ascertain the compliance of the above beneficiary safety and protection system aimed to combat the corona outbreak.

"Ehsaas has advised banks to ensure that sanitizers and alcohol wipes (90 percent alcoholic) are made available at all BVS Touch Points and Point of Sales Agents serving payments during provision of services. Before fingerprints verification, the beneficiaries are being guided as how to wash hands with the sanitizers and alcoholic wipes. After the use of biometric device, the beneficiaries are guided to rewash their hands with soaps and sanitizers as well," according to the statement.

"The precautionary decisions have been taken to avoid any risk of contributing in potential spread of epidemic among Ehsaas beneficiaries. Ehsaas strongly believes that safety and wellness of our people come first.

We are monitoring the situation closely and are following the World Health Organisation (WHO)'s guidance to ensure best practices," Nishtar was quoted as saying.

"We had an easy option to discontinue the Kafaalat disbursements in field, but we preferred to cater to the pressing financial needs of the women benefiting under Kafaalat by ensuring their health and safety in this situation. The precautionary protocols issued under Ehsaas will ensure uninterrupted Kafaalat payments in the field," she added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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