ISLAMABAD:The federal government has allocated Rs6 billion for ‘Panahgah’ (shelter home) scheme.

The ‘Panahgah’ management is striving to improve the basic services beyond bed and breakfast to include water, sanitation and hygiene for promoting healthy lives.

“We are committed to doing everything to support the low income families bread earners who until the pandemic were making some gains to reduce the burden of poverty and now suddenly face a serious crisis,” says Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Panahgahs Naseemur Rehman.

Significant attention is being given to keep Panahgahs clean, and Covid-19 pandemic presents us with the greatest responsibility and our team is doing its best to rise up to the challenge, Mr Rehman said.

According to him, Panahgahs in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are leading the way in the observance of standard operating practices in the wake of Covid-19 looming threat with provision of effective health care and essential services such as masks, soaps, sanitisers, hand-washing stations and strict adherence to social distancing.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has provided thousands of masks which were distributed in six Panahgahs in the twin cities which saw a rise in the number of daily wage earners.

The daily wage earners went to different rural areas to help farmers harvest wheat crop.After harvesting, they started returning to urban areas for jobs particularly in the construction industry.

Ten hand-washing stations have been installed in the Panahgah to help stem the spread of infection with clear cut instructions to the service providers and meal servers toact as role models by regularly washing their hands to promote the norm of hand washing.

It is not easy to reinforce the social distancing, especially in the overcrowded places, such as Panahgahs so we have accelerated awareness campaign on the ground by mobilizing service providers and meal servers through hand training programmes to practice the key precautionary steps. Over 20 key staff at Panahgahs have benefitted from the training.

Recent steps by the government to reopen the construction and selected business activities have given an impetus to the return of daily wage earners in the post-Eid scenario.

The six Panahgahs in Rawalpindi and Islamabad serve over 20,000 needy and poor during the week with food and lodging to around 3,000 people.

Hamza Khan, a labourer from Mardan said: “The signboard of Panahgah has emerged as the symbol of hope for the poor workers who in the past did not have place to spend night as they make it to the city in search of livelihood.

Meanwhile, the management of ‘Panahgah’ has launched a survey to ascertain details of daily wage earners who avail the services at ‘Panahgags’.The survey will help in introducing measures for the sustainability of the scheme. It will also help the management of Panahgahs ascertain needs of those who take shelter on daily basis.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020