A common characteristic of many of the least developed districts of Pakistan includes vast pieces of vacant land and harsh climatic conditions. For miles, there is only silence, the kind that throbs and gleams. People in these areas often live on pockets of land, in conditions where life is pared to the bare bone. Many parts of Balochistan, such as the Jhal Magsi district presents a similar landscape.
Village Gott Jatt Lashari is located in Union Council Gandawah of District Jhal Magsi. The district consists of desert-like conditions, where populations live in pockets. Employment opportunities are hard to come by and women in the area find it hard to venture out due to tribal norms. One of the common means of livelihood and sustenance is livestock rearing. However, this too has been hard to manage for many households due to multiple crises that have affected the area in recent years. Mahi Meema is the head of an 8-member family. Without a proper source of livelihood, she relied on livestock rearing. She was eventually left with a single goat that she had to sell amidst the drought. The situation was further exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19, reducing further any possibility of employment and economic opportunities in the remote area.
Mahi Meema was provided with PKR 10,500. Upon receiving the cash assistance, she requested that more projects like DCAP should be introduced in Jhal Magsi to help the vulnerable households of the area.
Describing the conditions of extreme poverty and isolation in Jhal Magsi, she said: “My children go without food for several days. It is something we are accustomed to. Life in a place as isolated as this can wear you out, with little or no opportunity to connect with markets and livelihood opportunities. In drought-like conditions, it’s often a life caught between isolation and hunger. The cash assistance would help me buy food for my family. It’s unexpected blessings like these that keep us going, somehow”.
The IRC team with the assistance of the village committee in Village Gott Jatt Lashari identified individuals like Mahi Meema as recipients for cash assistance under the Delivering Cash Assistance to Highly Vulnerable Populations in Pakistan’ (DCAP) project. Under the project, 40% clients are identified using Government’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER), and data from the national poverty alleviation programme, EHSAAS. These clients receive one-time cash support of PKR 10,500 (USD 66). Whereas the remaining 60% clients are identified in collaboration with the local communities from the target areas of non-BISP and/or increased vulnerabilities due to COVID-19, floods, locust invasion, and natural disasters.
The project is being implemented with a focus on religious minorities and transgenders from marginalized communities, with cash assistance of PKR 22,500 (equivalent to USD142) to cater to their food and other essential needs.