CHITRAL: A community-based money saving initiative is gaining popularity among the villagers in the remote valleys of Chitral as they readily get cash for medical treatment, paying children’s school fees, purchasing fertiliser, seeds and medicines for livestock.
The community-based saving groups (CBSGs) comprising women are found in almost every village which were conceived and started in 2010 when Aga Khan Rural Support Programme launched the child survival support programme in the district to contain the high mother and neonatal deaths.
A former official of the child support programme said poverty, rugged terrain, conservative methods and poor access to basic reproductive health services were the causes behind high mother and newborn mortality rate.
However, he said the CBSGs encouraged savings and provided loans to people, thus enabling them to access reproductive healthcare.
It assists people in availing medical treatment, paying school fee and buying farm inputs
“Within two years, the number of such groups has soared to 400 with 8,000 members.”
He said despite the Agha Khan programme ended its support to the initiative in 2013, the model did not collapse and continued more vigorously.
“Now the reproductive healthcare system is on a sound footing as the mortality rate has dropped considerably.”
The collective savings have encouraged the professional midwives and birth attendants to serve in the remote villages where they are paid at the community level, said the former official of the child support programme, adding the CBSGs also arranged cash for the poor villagers to purchase fertiliser, seeds and transport their agricultural produce to the market and pay school fees of children.
Daulat Khan, a member of Arakari valley CBSG, said being a daily wager he had no money for an obstetric surgery of his wife.
However, he said he did not have to worry as he got the money arranged from the local CBSG manager.
He said he had regularly been contributing a small amount of money to the village’s CBSG.
Sabiha Bibi, manager of a women saving group in Karimabad valley, said the cash was not kept in bank and was saved instead in a chest which was kept in the house of the CBSG manager.
She said the groups held weekly meetings where the members deposited their savings with the managers.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2021