ISLAMABAD: Although Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has started Waseela-i-Sehat’s pilot programme in Faisalabad and is planned to start in three more districts of different provinces, a research study shows that not only grants of BISP are distributed on basis of nepotism but they are not being spent on mothers and newborns.
Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), a non-government organisation, interviewed 6,200 people from Faisalabad, Nowshera, Badin and Quetta and launched the research report on Friday.
Report says that majority of the people complained that the BISP forms are distributed on political basis to garner votes.
It is pertinent to mention that Waseela-i-Sehat comprises health insurance and group life insurance programmes, provides the extreme and chronic underprivileged with basic income support measures to access health care and to cope with a variety of health shocks.
It also insures the life of the breadwinner of a family to compensate dependents of the deceased with Rs100,000 in case of a natural or accidental death.
The report says that during the survey in Faisalabad, it was learnt that although Waseela-i-Sehat was for women and children, most of the recipient women spent it on their male family members.
It has been suggested that there should be a condition that ensures that only mothers and children benefit from the programme, directly. Moreover, the report also reveals that the hospital staff treats the beneficiaries of the programme as second-grade citizens.
A study by an NGO says that the assistance to households not spent on mothers, children
SPO Technical Adviser Ayaz Kiyani, while sharing recommendations of the report, said the programme should focus on mother and neonatal health (MNH).
“Civil society organisations should be involved in the programme because BISP has no setup to ensure transparency at district level. Transparency and complaint redress system should be fully functional and legislation should be passed to resolve errors in programme,” he said, adding that merit needs to be ensured while selecting the beneficiaries.
“Health workers and staff appointed at programme-designated hospitals should be trained to deal with the patients, because they usually misbehave with patients having Waseela-i-Sehat cards,” he said.
Mr Kiyani said all interviewees were selected from the database of BISP and out of them 3,100 were those who applied for financial assistance but failed to get it.
SPO Chief Executive Naseer Memon said the main objective of the research was to compare unconditional and conditional cash transfer programmes, with focus on MNH.
Some civil society activists criticised the report and said that it was nothing but a waste of money and time. Naheed Aziz said that legislation could not be done to resolve issues of the Waseela-i-Sehat programme.
She said a bill regarding reproductive health was passed by the National Assembly during the tenure of the former government, but was rejected by the Senate.
“Civil society should try to resubmit the bill with amendments, because only that is how the issues of MNH can be addressed,” she said.
Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the minuscule format of the report had made it difficult for the people to read.
“Recently, Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) was published but it seems that no one bothered to see the DHS before preparing this report. Survey based on four districts can not present the real picture of the Pakistan,” she said.
Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2014