NEW YORK    -   The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has signed a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan for its Ehsaas initiative on poverty alleviation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF) witnessed the signing ceremony as Special Assistant to PM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar and President of Global Development at B&MGF Dr Chris Elias inked the MoU in New York late Wednesday, on the sidelines of 74th session of UN General Assembly.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will assist the government of Pakistan with a range of activities including accelerating stunting reduction programmes, supporting financial inclusion initiatives and investing in public health systems to improve health and reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality.

The foundation plans to spend about $200 million in Pakistan in 2020.

Earlier, the meeting between Prime Minister Khan with Bill Gates and Chris Elias focused on Ehsaas and finding ways of its collaboration with B&MGF on funding, technical assistance, and help of global experts in improving health, nutrition and financial inclusion in Pakistan.

The prime minister said Ehsaas, aimed at providing effective safety nets through 134 new poverty-focused policy actions and programmes, was the largest anti-poverty project ever launched in the country.

He said since assuming office, he had set out an ambitious plan to alleviate poverty and improve health and education for the most vulnerable people.

He mentioned that Ehsaas aimed at radically improving Pakistan’s progress towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Global Goals for its more than 210 million people.

The prime minister expressed commitment to put measures in place to end polio once and for all, as well as make progress on the micro-payment gateway and financial inclusion.

The ‘One Woman One Bank Account’ programme, which comes under Ehsaas, was also discussed in relation to how it could accelerate both financial inclusion and women empowerment.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Adviser to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood attended the meeting.

The new collaboration of the government with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is in continuation of the Foundation’s more than decade-long work in Pakistan. The earlier programmes have covered a range of shared development priorities including polio eradication, financial inclusion, routine immunization and maternal, neo-natal and child health.

Ehsaas is about the creation of a ‘welfare state’ by countering elite capture and leveraging 21st century tools such as using data and technology to create precision safety nets, promoting financial inclusion and access to digital services, supporting economic empowerment of women, economic growth and sustainable development and overcoming financial barriers to accessing health and post-secondary education.

FM BRIEFS ARGENTINE ENVOY

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met his Argentine counterpart Jorge Marcelo Faurie on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York and briefed him about the latest situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K).

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in a meeting held late Wednesday urged the international community to play its role in immediately ending the blockade of nearly eight million Kashmiris, who continued to endure worst human rights and humanitarian conditions at the hands of the Indian occupation forces.

Both sides exchanged views on issues of international importance and expressed satisfaction with the ongoing cooperation between the two sides at the multilateral forums, in particular context of the UN Security Council reform process. The two sides also discussed possible avenues for cooperation and collaboration with regard to their respective Antarctic programmes.

PAK KASHMIR GCC-PAK MINISTERIAL MEETING

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has highlighted humanitarian situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) as members of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-Pakistan met in New York on the sidelines of 74th session of UN General Assembly.

The meeting was attended by the Foreign Ministers of Oman and Kuwait alongwith Permanent Representatives of other GCC countries, late Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi apprised the GCC representatives that Indian forces continued to operate with impunity in the occupied territory with civilians bearing the brunt of debilitating impact of the lockdown that entered its 52nd day.

He expressed the hope that the regional and international organisations would play their role towards addressing the grave threat to peace and security in South Asia as a result of the illegal and unilateral actions by India.

The Joint Ministerial meeting also reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations between the GCC and Pakistan.

The meeting agreed to explore avenues for enhancing bilateral trade and economic ties between the two sides as well as to strengthen institutional linkages.