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Cash transfer programme in Malawi changes the lives of families in extreme poverty

UNICEF Image: Malawi, Social Cash Transfers
© UNICEF Malawi/2007/ Sevenier
Malawi's UNICEF-supported Social Cash Transfer pilot programme gives hope to families in extreme poverty

By Gaëlle Sevenier

MCHINJI DISTRICT, Malawi, 14 January 2007 – Over the last 10 years, Blackson Kalinde and his wife Sara have lost three of their children and their children’s spouses to AIDS, leaving 20 of their grandchildren orphaned. The elderly couple soon became the primary caregivers for four of their grandchildren.

Although unable to work due to their age, they struggled to provide assistance to the remaining 16 grandchildren, as well as their surviving daughter and her six children. The Kalinde household remained in extreme poverty for years, barely surviving on less than 20 cents per person, per day. 

“There was not enough food to go around,” Mr. Kalinde says. “Each one of us was able to eat only one meal a day. It was very difficult to care properly for the kids and provide them with everything that children need to grow.”

A new programme gives hope

Nearly two years ago, with support from UNICEF, the Government of Malawi launched a pilot programme called Social Cash Transfer (SCT) as a means to tackle poverty. To qualify, families must be labour-constrained and meet the criteria for being at the extreme poverty line, such as an inability to have more than one meal each day or purchase essential non-food items like soap, clothing and school supplies. 

The Kalinde family soon learned that they met these requirements and were therefore eligible for the new social protection programme, which would offer approximately 2,600 kwacha ($19) per month to the family. Now, they live with hope.

 “Although it is a very small amount,” says Mr. Kalinde, “the cash transfer has helped our life a great deal.” 

One family's story

Malawi ranks as one of the world’s poorest countries, children living in desperate conditions characterized by low literacy, food insecurity and high rates of malnutrition – all exacerbated by a growing HIV/AIDS crisis.

Margaret (not her real name) is the mother of two sons and is living with HIV. When her husband died, she had nowhere to turn. She suffered stigma in her community and was too weak to work. Then Margaret found out that she was eligible for SCT, changing her life drastically.

After just over a year in the programme, Margaret has provided a house for her family, purchased school kits for her children and acquired livestock. She is now receiving antiretroviral treatment and feeling less tired. Using part of the money she receives every month, Margaret has even started a business selling fish in her village.

“The cash transfers have renewed my hope in the children’s future,” says Margaret. “In the past, I was worried all the time. Today I am able to send my kids to school with food in their stomachs and books in their hands. I know that with proper education they will be fine.” 

UNICEF and the government are continuing to expand the SCT programme as these small sums of money transform how aid is distributed in Malawi.



Related links

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Malawi: Poverty afflicts children orphaned by AIDS
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UNICEF: Policy Advocacy and Partnerships for Children’s Rights

Malawi Social Cash Transfer Scheme
(external link, opens in a new window)

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