The Mother and Early Childhood Grant: first cash transfer to beneficiaries under the initiative kicked off in Attapeu

The Mother and Early Childhood Grant (MECG) is part of a joint initiative between UNICEF, ILO and UNCDF aimed at improving access to health and child protection services in Lao PDR for pregnant women and children.

27 August 2021

Vientiane, 26 August 2021 – The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MOLSW), the Attapeu Department of Labour and Social Welfare’ and the Star Fintech Company (subsidiary of Star Telecom) has commenced the first cash transfer to beneficiaries under the Mother and Early Childhood Grant (MECG) initiative in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province on 12 August.

There are a total of 982 beneficiaries in 46 villages of Sanamxay districts enrolled under the MECG, which is a cash transfer pilot for pregnant women and young children aimed at improving the uptake of vaccinations and access to antenatal and postnatal as well as child protection services, including 529 pregnant women and 453 children under six months of age.

The payment so far was made via a cash-to-door approach reaching 26 villages and 192 beneficiaries, which accounted for about 30 per cent of the payment. This first payment will be completed in the coming weeks and payment through the electronic payment app “U-Money” will commence thereafter.

“The Government of Lao PDR recognizes that social protection plays a vital role in reducing poverty and inequality while promoting socio-economic development and social cohesion. The cash in the hands of pregnant women and lactating mothers will improve the health and nutrition outcome in the target districts. Moreover, the programme will benefit not only children, but the spillover effect will reach their families, communities and the entire country,” stated Mr. Vongkham Phanthanouvong, Director General Social Welfare of MOLSW.

Beneficiaries of the initiative will directly receive a monthly benefit of 150,000 LAK, made in bi-monthly payments of 300,000 LAK, via U-Money and cash-to-door approach provided by Star Fintech. The process also relies on a computerized Management Information System (MIS) to ensure accurate targeting and timely cash payments.

The MECG pilot will be implemented in all the villages of Sanamxay and Phouvong districts in Attapeu province, alongside Nong district of Savannakhet province. Through health worker outreach services and routine visits by local government institutions, such as the village Lao Women’s Union (VLWU) and the Child Protection Network (CPN), the beneficiaries will be encouraged to access services that will ensure good use of the cash provided under this project.

The MECG pilot is part of the United Nation’s Joint-Programme (UNJP) entitled “Leaving no one behind: Establishing the basis for social protection floors in Lao PDR”, a joint initiative between UNICEF, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). The UNJP is aimed at strengthening the Government of Lao PDR’s capacity for planning, managing and implementing the National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) signed in April 2020, which is a roadmap for the development of the social protection system, under which the MECG is the main project within this strategy.

The implementation of the UNJP is led by MOLSW in partnership with relevant ministries, the provincial and district authorities of the pilot districts and the UN in Lao PDR. It will be implemented from January 2020 to March 2022.

The programme is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Joint SDG Funds on Social Protection, with MOLSW leading and coordinating its implementation at both the national and sub-national levels, with technical support from UNICEF Lao PDR.

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Tabongphet Phouthavong
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