ISLAMABAD: At least 1,200 soup kitchens (or public doles of free food) will be opened across the country to help the destitute, including at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) in the federal capital.
This was disclosed by the Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM) on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar as she inaugurated the free food facility of Saylani Welfare International Trust (SWIT) at the hospital.
After opening the free food spread, Nishtar and SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza shared food with people who were visiting the hospital. Nishtar and Dr Mirza later visited the wards in the hospital and inquired about the well-being of patients.
Speaking to the media, Nishtar said that as per Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, soup kitchens will be opened at hospitals, bus stands and in industrial areas to facilitate the underprivileged segments of society including poor patients and their attendants, travellers, and labourers.
She urged philanthropists and the corporate sector to contribute to this noble cause.
Dr Mirza said that PM Imran has directed all ministers to open such spreads in their respective constituencies. He further said that besides the soup kitchen, they were planning to build a shelter at Pims as well where patients and their attendants can stay overnight without any additional cost.
The soup kitchen will serve two meals a day to at least a thousand people, including patients and their attendants at Pims.
Further, Dr Mirza said that the government is working to provide health insurance cards to some 15 million people in 84 districts of the country by the end of this year.
He reminded that some 6.9 million families have already been provided with the health cards, allowing them access to free healthcare in 300 hospitals of the country.
Nishtar continued that PM was personally committed to ensuring that no one goes to bed hungry in Pakistan and Ehsaas programme was working hard to realise this vision.
She said under the Ehsaas framework, the government was extending logistic support to the soup kitchen through a strategic approach and was playing its role by setting safety and quality standards.
In the first phase, Ehsaas Saylani Langars will be opened in Peshawar, Swat, Multan, Lahore and Umer Kot in the next two months. Overall, in the public-private partnership with Saylani Welfare International Trust (SWIT), Ehsaas will set up 112 langars nationwide over two years.
The first langar was inaugurated by the PM at Peshawar Mor in October 2019.
SWIT Chairman’s Adviser Muhammad Afzal Chamdia said that the trust would continue bringing in all its kitchen and food distribution resources to feed the marginalised people across Pakistan.
Dr Maxood pledged full cooperation of Pims in this noble cause. There is a lot of criticism on langars but they lessen despair among the homeless. The free-food facility restores dignity to those who would otherwise go hungry, and they contribute to grassroots activism and social cohesion with food security and nutrition aims.
He said the advantage of langars can be asked from the poor labourers who almost forego lunch or from those people who accompany their relatives coming for medical treatment from very far-flung areas and have no means and money to get food and shelter and stay on footpaths.
SWIT, which is partnering with Ehsaas on this langar initiative, is a Pakistani charity that provides free meals besides other social welfare work.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2020.