In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Enterprises & Co. Ltd (UECL) have jointly taken an initiative to provide food support to almost 5000 poor women in Jamalpur, Kurigram and Ganbandha districts.
In addition to providing awareness about the spread of COVID-19, UNDP under its “Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities” (SWAPNO) project, has initiated the distribution of food items to 126 unions of the three project districts to ensure food security of marginalized women.
Under this initiative 540 women received food assistance on Monday in 15 unions of Bakshiganj and Dewanganj upazilas in Jamalpur district, UNDP said on Tuesday.
“While welcoming the government safety net programme, we realize that there is a need for meeting immediate gaps, before public distribution system is fully effectively operationalized,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh.
He pointed out that although COVID19 might not have a very high death toll its collateral impacts are likely to create much greater socio-economic hardships.
“The increased risks of losing jobs and income, inability to easily access essential services are some of the hardships that will disproportionately affect the poor, This partnership will deliver food to the poor households”, Sudipto added.
"We believe it is our responsibility to give back to society and those in need, doubly so in trying times such as now. We have partnered with UNDP in this responsibility to garner knowledge and better understanding on how to efficiently handle crisis situations. To help the society in a more organized and meaningful manner. We hope to continue our relationship for the betterment of our society," Moinuddin Hasan Rashid, UECL’s Managing Director, said.
“Recently we have signed an MoU with UNDP, and under that we are collaborating to provide emergency support to vulnerable communities during national crisis. This food distribution initiative is just one example.”
“Food support activities of UNDP and United Group is undoubtedly a good initiative, which will help the poor people, especially women to fight this crisis. I hope together we can overcome this crisis sooner or later,” said Abdur Rouf Talukder, Upazila Chairman, Bakshiganj, Jamalpur.
Along with others, A.S.M Jamshed Khondokar, Upazila Nirbahi Officer, Bakshiganj, Md. Mahmud Hossain, District Manager, SWAPNO project, Md. Amirul Islam, Upazila LGED Engineer, were present at the food distribution.
Food items were distributed among the beneficiaries by maintaining proper social distancing to avoid the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Food package included – Rice 12 kg, Flour 6 kg, Potato 2 kg, Lentil 2 kg, Sugar 1 kg, Salt 1 kg, Soyabean oil 1 litre, Flattened rice 1 kg and 2 soaps.
UNDP is also planning to provide an amount of BDT 1500 as Cash grants to each of the SWAPNO beneficiaries through bKash which will come into effect within the next one week.
SWAPNO has been working since 2014 as a social transfer and empowerment project for ultra-poor women.
Under the project, the beneficiaries, mostly divorced and widowed women, are provided public works jobs, taught how to save, given life skills training, made aware of best practices, given a voice in the society through advocacy and linked with service delivery.
They are also taught how to manage businesses, given livelihood skills training allowing them to graduate into self-employment, entrepreneurship or better jobs.