Sad day for Sesame Street in Pakistan

    Rani and Elmo, lead characters in the Pakistani version of Sesame Street called Sim Sim Hamara. The U.S. Agency for International Development is cutting the funding for the show. Photo by: USAID Pakistan

    The impact of a popular TV program on the literacy of Pakistani children can barely be measured in six months. But just half a year after the program was launched, the U.S. Agency for International Development is already cutting funding for the show.

    The decision was based on “credible allegations of fraud and abuse” against the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop. U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said at a press briefing. The organization produces Sim Sim Hamara, the local version of Sesame Street in Pakistan.

    USAID has initially agreed to provide $20 million for the show, which is supposed to run for four years. Up to $6.7 million had been spent as of March 31, Toner said.

    The group dismissed the reports, with one of the managers calling it a “lie,” Al Jazeera reports. But with the United States no longer funding Sim Sim Hamara, the organization plans to seek alternative financing sources to keep the program running. The program was set up to aid the education of children in Pakistan.

    The aid agency, according to Toner, thought it was “prudent” to cut off the program’s funding — instead of continuing to “throw good money after bad” —while investigation is still ongoing. It was not mentioned whether USAID will resume funding for the show in the event it finds no evidence the group committed fraud.

    Read more development aid news online and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

    Join the Discussion