Cash transfers, small predictable sums of money given to ultra poor families with children, are a relatively new Social Protection strategy in Eastern and Southern Africa to alleviate household poverty, showing positive results throughout the region.
International development agencies and governments have begun to rely increasingly on cash transfers to households for a number of reasons:
UNICEF in action
UNICEF supports cash transfer programmes in 14 countries in the region.
Together with Save the Children UK and the University of North Carolina, UNICEF also supports the Transfer Project, a research initiative that examines the impact of government-sponsored social cash transfer programmes in several sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Lesotho, Zambia and South Africa.
Results for children
The benefits of cash transfer programmes have been widely documented around the world, and increasingly so in sub Saharan Africa. Cash transfers can immediately improve income and reduce overall inequality and poverty.
South Africa introduced a Child Support Grant (CSG) in 1998. It has become South Africa’s largest social assistance programme, covering 9 million children. Originally limited to children under the age of 7 years, the programme is now available for children up to 17 years of age. Eligible primary caregivers receive a monthly support of about US$28 per child. As a result of such cash transfer programmes, which also include old age pensions, the income of the poorest 5 percent of the population in South Africa has increased by 50 percent. Further, a study of the Child Support Grant showed that these programmes have a positive impact on the nutritional status and the growth of children.
In Kenya, the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC) programme was first introduced in 2004 with the support of UNICEF and other partners such as the World Bank, DFID, SIDA and DANIDA. To qualify for the programme, a household must be poor, have orphans or vulnerable children under 18 years of age, and should not receive other benefits in cash or in kind. In 2010, the programme reached over 250,000 people in approximately 90,000 households with about US$20 per month. By 2013, the programme will be extended to 150,000 households. It has had a significant impact on the level of food consumption and dietary diversity, leading to increased consumption of fish, meat and milk.
The Malawi Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) reaches around 100,000 beneficiaries in 25,000 households with a variable benefit of on average US$14 per household. It led to an increase in school enrolment and a reduction of child labour. Overall absenteeism from school declined.