HYDERABAD, Pakistan – When 5-year-old Kiran Iram skips home to her crumbling brick hut at the edge of a farmer’s field, she feels good, not dizzy anymore.
“Before there was no food to eat, only tea some days,” Kiran explains, shyly twisting the intricately beaded paranda decoration that bounces from her tiny hair braid. “Now the blue and green card is helping my family eat nicely,” she says, pointing at a plastic debit card in her mother’s hand provided by the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).
Kiran’s family is one of about 90,498 families in the Hyderabad area eligible for the nationwide safety net program. BISP has more than 6 million eligible families in Pakistan, of which more than 4 million of the poorest families are receiving monthly cash grants, paid to the mother.
Created after the food, financial, and fuel crisis of 2008, this social safety net initiative has been giving impoverished families 1,000 rupees (about $10) each month to help them buy basic necessities such as food, clothing, and medicines. The World Bank started supporting BISP with $60 million in 2009 through its Social Safety Net Technical Assistance Project. Additional financing of $150 million was approved by the Bank’s Board in 2012 to help expand the coverage of the program as well as provide additional benefit to these families, linked to their responsibility of sending their children to primary school.