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Malawi, 19 September 2016: Zainab’s safety net

© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Phwitiko
Zainab and her children. Behind them (L) is her old house and to the right is the new one which she has furnished with window frames and a door using money from the cash transfer.

ZOMBA, Malawi, 19 September 2016 – Zainab Ali doesn’t remember how old she is, but vaguely recalls being told that she was born around the time Malawi’s first president, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, returned from England. This would make her about 58 years old.

She lives in Kanyesi Village in the area of Traditional Authority Malemia in Zomba. Zainab is frail. Her health has not been all that good lately so she cannot work in the tiny garden behind her house.

“There have been days when I didn’t even have food for myself and the children,” says Zainab. She and the four children she looks after – one of her own, a niece and two grandchildren – used to live in a tiny little house, barely a square meter big, and no roof. There was no protection from the cold or the rain. Hungry, cold and wet, the family had to constantly beg for food and shelter from neighbours.

Zainab recalls that two years ago some people came to inquire about her situation and then registered her in a programme that ensures she receives money every two months to keep her and her family afloat. The people who came to Zainab’s house are members of the Community Social Support Committee (CSSC), one of the structures set up within the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP), a Government programme, supported by UNICEF and various other development partners and donors.

In Zomba and six other districts, the SCTP is funded by the EU and it targets ultra-poor and labor constrained households. These are typically families like Zainab’s, with few or no assets, comprising the old, ill or young. In Zomba alone, 70,266 people from 16,040 households are benefitting from the programme.

The beneficiary households are selected by the CSSC, who have been trained to identify eligible households within a rigorous targeting process. The CSSC works hand in hand with the District Council and the community members in preparing a final beneficiary list for the respective area. The payment is then done manually every two months.

At the moment, Zainab receives 9,480 Malawi Kwacha which is about US$14 and caters for two months. There are slight variations in the amount each household receives depending on the number of people in the family and the number of children in school. Anastazio Matewere who oversees the day to day management of the SCTP at the Zomba District Council explains that the overall amount has recently been adjusted to reflect rising cost of living and as a result the beneficiaries will get an increased amount of money from the next disbursement on.

Zainab says the money makes a difference in her life. “The first time I received the money I bought food. I also bought plates, cups and buckets to draw and store water. We didn’t even have these basic utensils in those days.”

Although she uses most of the money to buy food she has also been able to buy window frames and had a door installed on a house which the local church built for her. She also managed to get a latrine constructed behind her house with money from the SCTP.

Cash transfers within the seven EU-funded SCTP districts are being provided to support many other households like Zainab’s who struggle to meet minimum daily food requirements. They are part of the 24 per cent of the population who live in ultra-poverty (Integrated Household Survey: 2010).

Behind the scenes is a team of district officers who manage the individual cases once beneficiaries have been identified. With EU funding and technical support from UNICEF, these officers have been trained on procedures of capturing beneficiaries as well as updating beneficiary status in case of a birth or a child being enrolled in school which changes a household’s entitlement within the SCTP. Case management is a critical ongoing exercise to ensure that Zainab, her children and many others in similar situations are taken care of.

 

 
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