Cash Transfer Plus in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

UNICEF continues collaboration with the Ministry of National Mobilisation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines after the volcano eruption

Vackele's children after the volcano in SVG
13 May 2022

It’s the little things that count: making a difference in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

After La Soufriere’s eruption last year, national programme temporarily expanded to improve everyday life for hundreds of families

For Vackele Walker the last year has been a hard one.  Following the devastating eruption of La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent on 9 April 2021, life became tough both physically and economically for the 34-year-old mother of four and her young family.

Not only did they have to cope with ashfall coating their house and yard – which was incredibly difficult to clean – food also became scarce as shops were closed and all business activity ground to a halt in the aftermath. They had to make what little food they had stretch – and stretch.

When shops finally did reopen, prices had risen dramatically, and were out of reach.

“After the eruption things in the shop got very expensive,” says Ms Walker, “I didn’t even have enough money to buy sugar, rice or meat to feed my children. It was really hard.”

But help was at hand for families like the Walkers. The Ministry of National Mobilisation – with financial and technical assistance from UNICEF USA – was able to offer a lifeline through temporarily expanding the national social protection system to reach affected households. The programme worked to provide cash as well as training to address barriers to recovery, financial or otherwise.    

The intervention came as a pleasant surprise.

According to Ms Walker, “When someone called out of the blue to say I could get money to help I was like “wow”. I was kind of surprised. We got 640 EC dollars a month. They told me about the bank card I would need and which bank I could go to. It was straightforward.” 

The extra cash – received from August to December 2021– was put to good use for her family.  

“I paid my bills, bought stuff for my kids for school, food for us to eat and stuff like that. I bought their textbooks, school uniform, shoes, socks and every little thing that they needed for school. And stuff for the baby. I was able to buy more than normal. It helped me out a lot. I felt really great about the whole thing.”

Ms Walker also enjoyed the 12-week course in Family Life Education that each household head in the scheme attended. Participants were able to find out more about budgeting and hygiene, helping to address risks caused by COVID-19, dengue and hygiene  hazards following eruptions.  (Funding for the project was linked to the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services).

“I really liked the workshops. I learnt a lot about how to deal with money and it gave me something interesting to do during the day,” maintains a satisfied Ms Walker.

Nearly 1,000 families  were able to benefit from the intervention which ran from July 2021 to January 2022. Innovations – including the use of the bank card, as well as the cash-plus approach (linking cash with training or other services) - are now being taken forward in the design and delivery of upcoming recovery programmes.

UNICEF continues to work with the Ministry to strengthen the national social protection system as a more efficient and effective way of reaching people to better address household needs in times of crisis – and all year-round.