Safety nets create room for changing livelihood patterns of ultra-poor


DHAKA, April 17, 2021 (BSS) – Safety nets come as the cornerstone of the country’s social security regime. Driven by a benefit-yielding motto, these safety nets have been providing health and nutritional assistance to mothers and children from ultra-poor cluster population. As a result, light of hope has been enkindled among the disadvantaged people to lead a better life.

Quite a good number of government and non-government safety net programmes are offering wide range of supports especially in nutrition and primary health care sectors to benefit the targeted population by changing their livelihood patterns.

Though Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty over the past two decades, the country is among the ten countries with the highest prevalence of malnutrition, as about 31 percent of children under five are stunted.

Children from poor households bear a disproportionate burden of stunted growth. Ensuring nutrition prenatally and in the early years can help maximize a child’s brain development and growth.

Keeping this factor in mind, the present government has taken various safety net programmes targeting the ultra-poor faction of the population to upgrade their nutritional status.

The community clinics, a flagship programme of the Awami League government and an innovation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, aim to extend primary health care to the doorsteps of rural people especially the ultra-poor people all over Bangladesh.

There are nearly 18,000 community clinics across the country offering affordable healthcare, particularly to people of low income group.

Community health clinics are providing a broad range of services and health promotion activities to local population, particularly those who have or are at risk of poor health.

Faizul Islam, a 56-year old man who still works as a day labourer and resides in one of the houses at Dharmapur shelter project in Feni district, said, “We are too poor to see private physicians. We don’t have enough money to go to Sadar upazila to see a doctor even at the public hospitals there. Thanks to the government initiative for setting up community clinics as it has come to us as savior.”

Due to lack of medication for long, Halima, a 70-year old lady from the same area, has been suffering from severe physical impairment. She used to think that she had less chance to survive.

However, the scenario has changed. She now seems enthusiastic and plans to cuddle her great grandchild as she is confident to live longer now.

“I didn’t have any money to buy medicine for me. I lost hope for my survival. But suddenly the community clinics changed my fate. Now I can visit doctors at the clinics anytime and on the top of that I get medicine free of cost,” she said gleefully.

Recently, the government has taken another programme titled “Income Support Program for the Poorest (ISPP)” also known as the ‘Jawtno’ to benefit ten percent of the poorest households across 43 poor upazilas with high child malnutrition rates in seven northwestern districts.

Jawtno initiated a cash benefit scheme for the poorest mothers and pregnant women in exchange for their participation in activities to improve their children’s nutrition and cognitive development.

The Local Government Cooperative and Rural Development Division is implementing the project with the financial assistance of the World Bank at a cost of Taka 377.80 crore to benefit 600,000 poor rural people.

Of the total amount, the project received Taka 340 crore from the World Bank and the rest 37.80 crore from the government fund. Meanwhile, the Women and Children Ministry is implementing a project in 21 districts to improve nutritional status of 50 lakh poor.

Project director Dr Abul Hossain said the objective of the project is to provide integrated primary healthcare with nutrition supplements to the ultra poor.

Side by side the government initiatives, a number of non-government and welfare organizations are also working for improving the primary healthcare services for the poor people across the country.

Haridashi Woman and Child Care and Nutrition Centre of Brahmanbaria district is one such initiative, which provides health care and nutrition support to poor women and children.

Bangladesh Mohila Samity set up the centre in remote Gokorno area under Nasir Nagar upazila of the district in 2011 to provide health care and nutrition support to the poor women and children.

Dr Marufi Khan, coordinator of the programme, said they also provide treatment to patients for various diseases like breast and ovarian cancer along with providing nutrition support.

The ability of social safety nets creates an enough room for those who are disadvantaged.