The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bangladesh will provide financial assistance for 50,000 at-risk low-income urban people in two slum areas in Dhaka during the Covid-19 pandemic under the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
With support from USAID, the WFP is initially targeting 10,000 households in Kallyanpur Slum and Sattala Bosti, Mohakhali, to complement the government's and non-governmental organisations' assistance in these areas.
It has been designed as a pilot programme to create a model that the Bangladesh government could replicate and scale up.
The budget for the 10-month programme – from July 2020 to April 2021 – is $7 million.
They disclosed the plan at a virtual event titled "Urban Poor At-Risk Food Assistance Programme" on Wednesday.
State Minister for Social Welfare Md Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru inaugurated the programme as the chief guest and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller delivered the opening remarks.
In order to adhere to safety protocols, the assistance will be prepackaged and delivered to households by implementing partner Brac.
Ambassador Miller said the Government of Bangladesh enforced a national shutdown beginning on March 26 to minimise the spread of Covid-19. As a result of rising unemployment, income losses, and food price increases, an increasing number of urban households needed support to meet their basic needs, like food – especially those with limited or no access to healthcare or a social safety net programme.
He added that the food assistance programme was undertaken to help urban low-income populations.
Ambassador Miller added that the US embassy has assisted Bangladesh in dealing with the novel coronavirus outbreak – providing PPE and other safety equipment to the country as well as training new doctors.
Asif Saleh, executive director of Brac Bangladesh, said, during the novel coronavirus pandemic, poor people in villages are able to engage in various activities including agriculture. However, the low income group of people living in urban areas does not have that opportunity. So this kind of programme is very effective for them.
Now the question is, what will be the implantation presses of this programme, he said adding, "Firstly, we will try to pay cash through mobile banking. We will get the help of the government's database. Finally, we will use our own team to create a list of the real needy families."
State Minister for Social Welfare Md Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru highlighted the government's various social safety programmes, and thanked USAID for its assistance.
USAID and WFP officials said these two urban locations were identified as most residents are informal workers, daily wage labourers, ready-made garment factory workers, domestic workers, or those in low-paid jobs in the transport sector.
As part of the programme, 50,000 individuals will receive monthly cash assistance aligned with similar packages provided by the government, as complementary to support received under existing safety net programmes.
Towards strengthening linkages with existing systems and policies, the WFP will also support the self-enrolment of those considered eligible and will advocate for their inclusion in appropriate government schemes.
Beneficiaries will therefore include those already covered by the government safety nets, as well as those supported to self-register for eligibility under government schemes run by the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and the Ministry of Social Welfare.
To effectively complement services provided by the public and private sector, the WFP will harness the on-ground experience of its implementing partner Brac to enhance beneficiary targeting and enrolment, and build the capacities of public and private supply chains to support access to fresh food at reasonable prices.