Cash Transfers Help Working Mothers Raise Healthier Children
The Geunaseh cash assistance programme supports working mothers in Sabang to provide nutritious and healthy meals for their children
As Hafidhah and her family lounge in their small living room on a late afternoon, they are suddenly roused by the electric meter which starts to beep, alerting them that the electricity credit will soon run out. With eight people living in her home, it is one of the more crowded households in Jurong Bay Pass, Cot Ba’u Village, Sabang City.
Hafidhah lives with her husband, their four children, her mother and the two children of relatives who have intellectual disabilities. Her husband works as a labourer nearby, and Hafidhah earns money selling meatballs in an elementary school canteen. Her mother’s hobby of crafting knitted souvenirs sometimes brings in additional income. The family does what they can to contribute, especially since the rise in prices for daily necessities. However, it is still a significant struggle to afford living costs and feed eight family members.
For a while, Hafidhah was concerned about the growth and health of her children, especially her youngest child Khalid, age two, who refused to drink breastmilk. However, as he grew older and turned into a cheerful toddler, he began to drink processed milk and eat vegetables and fruit. But buying healthy foods such as fish can be a challenge at certain times when the weather makes fish quite rare.
“Even though we live on an island, there is not a lot of fish available during certain months, so we have to buy it at a high price,”
The family gets financial relief through social protection benefits they receive to help cover the costs for electricity, gas and health insurance. Through the GEUNASEH programme, Hafidhah gets 150,000 IDR every month to buy healthier food for her children, such as fish, fruits and vegetables.
“I am so grateful for the GEUNASEH programme because it helps my children eat healthy while we focus on meeting our daily needs,”
Geunaseh, which means love in the local Acehnese language, is a locally-funded social protection programme for children living in Sabang. It was launched in 2019 through a Sabang mayoral regulation that aims to support new mothers to care for their newborn children to ensure healthy physical and cognitive growth before schooling starts.
Rapikah, another working mother living in nearby Batee Shok Village, also finds that the cash transfers have helped her immensely. As Rapikah’s husband moves from job to job and Rapikah takes sewing orders whenever she can, financial stability is a concern for the family.
“I sew because it is enjoyable, alleviates my boredom and helps my family which is new to Sabang,” said Rapikah.“ Although we struggle, I’m not worried because we receive social protection in many aspects, including health, education and nutrition.” She praised the ease of registering for the GEUNASEH scheme after moving to the city with her husband, who was born in Sabang.
With a three-month-old daughter, Rapikah knows that her child needs good nutrition to prevent diseases and promote healthy growth. She regularly cooks healthy meals for herself using products from her family’s garden and the local market so she can exclusively breastfeed her daughter. During these periods of financial uncertainty, GEUNASEH has helped her to provide these nutritional foods.
"I was worried about my daughter's growth since she only weighed two kilograms,” said Rapikah as she held her daughter Siti in her arms after breastfeeding her. “Today, I am happy that her weight has increased to 5 kilograms in the last three months and she is now more responsive to sounds and visual stimulation. I am thankful for receiving the GEUNASEH cash transfers as they help me provide more nutritious foods so I can always breastfeed my daughter.”
How You Can Help
Thanks to generous contributions from donors, UNICEF is able to work with local governments, partners and dedicated social workers across Indonesia to implement assistance programs aimed at improving the welfare of parents and children in need in outermost areas of Indonesia.
However, the challenge is far from over. Long-term efforts will be needed to protect children and parents who are in need so they can grow and develop properly.
If you want to help parents like Hafidhah and Rapikah through social assistance programs in other parts of Indonesia, please consider donating to UNICEF. We really appreciate your contribution.