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Report on the Evaluation of Zimbabwe’s Harmonized Social Cash Transfer Program shows potential to improve household food security, health and education.

© UNICEF 2014
Cash transfer programs are increasing the bargaining power of children and women

 By Richard Nyamanhindi

According to preliminary data from a recent evaluation by the American Institutes for Research and some local agencies, the Harmonized Social Cash Transfer (HSCT) program being implemented by the Government of Zimbabwe and UNICEF has the potential to improve beneficiaries’ food security, health, nutrition, education status and reduce levels of poverty among the poor.

The evaluation report which was released at the end of December 2013, shows that the HSCT program provides regular and reliable cash payments to labour-constrained and food-poor households.

In a number of communities in Makoni, Kariba, Chivi and Rushinga, the cash transfer program has increased the bargaining power of women and resulting in secondary impacts on young adolescents who have been able to use the transfers to pay for their education in situations they would have otherwise dropped out of school.

The evaluation also determined the program’s ability to affect a number of outcomes such as access to services and markets and concluded that the majority of the households receiving the cash transfers have benefitted from the direct and indirect effects of the program.

Data was collected from a large and representative sample that was randomly selected. School-age children represented 43 percent of the sample with majority of these representing orphaned and vulnerable children.

The HSCT program has an opportunity to reduce poverty because it enrolls very poor households and offers a meaningful size transfer. Per capita consumption is about half the rural median ($26 versus $50) as reported by ZIMSTATS in 2011. As a result, the percentage of beneficiaries living below the food poverty line was significantly higher than in the rural population as a whole (81 percent versus 30 percent). The poverty gap was also much higher in HSCT households (63 percent) than in rural Zimbabwe (43 percent).

Thus, not only was the poverty rate much higher among the HSCT population, but the consumption of HSCT beneficiaries below the line was significantly lower than for other poor rural households in Zimbabwe.

The program provides $25 per month to the median household, which translates to $5 a month per capita for a family of five. This study showed that median per capita expenditure in recipient households before the transfer was $26 per month. Thus, the $5 monthly per capita transfer is a 20 percent increase to the household’s monthly expenditure, which is the minimum thought to be required to have an impact on consumption.

In addition to fighting poverty, another goal of the program is to reduce violence against children. Half the children ages 13–20 living in beneficiary households reported having suffered physical violence Baseline Report for the HSCT Program in the previous 12 months. This rate was similar to that of the 2012 NBSLEA. Thus, there is a lot of opportunity for the program to improve the safety of children in beneficiary households.

The program also has the potential to affect schooling outcomes, but most likely for secondary school–age children where the outcomes are low. Enrolment rates for primary school were quite high at over 90 percent but dropped 20 percentage points for secondary school enrolment.

For the full report go to: Full Report

 

 
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