Call centre helps Urban Cash Transfer beneficiaries

Supporting vulnerable families during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Maria Thundu
Chrissy Maulidi, with her four-month old daughter, checks her phone for messages © UNICEF Malawi/2021/Thundu
UNICEF Malawi/2021/Thundu
07 June 2021

Chrissy Maulidi, 24, is a beneficiary of the Malawi Government COVID-19 Urban Cash Intervention (CUCI) initiative to support vulnerable households with a three-month subsistence allowance. She reflects on her experience using the services of the CUCI call centre.

“The service was very good, and the operators were respectful and gave us the information we needed. Within a month of finding out that we were on the list, we received our money,” she recalls. The funds they have received since they became eligible have been a blessing to her family. They are set to receive MWK105,000 (USD$130) in total.

The initial funding for the establishment of the CUCI Call Centre was provided by the SDG Acceleration Fund, and further investments and maintenance of operations during the COVID-19 emergency response are being supported by the Joint SDG Fund.

Chrissy and her husband live in Lilongwe and both engage in piecework to make their respective incomes, she in laundry, water collection and harvesting, and her husband in barbering and trash collection. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they both worked daily and had a steady income, but have since been struggling to make ends meet. They have two children, aged seven and four months, and an 18-year-old nephew staying with them.

The family initially heard from a friend that they may be selected as beneficiaries for the fund and were given the number for the call centre. They only had to enquire one time to find out they were eligible and the process was straightforward from that point onwards.

Chrissy says they received three quarters of the funds that they were allotted for them, about MWK70,000 (USD$87).

“I really wanted to start a business with the money, but since we did not receive the full amount yet, I have to wait. Most of the money was used for food, rent and baby care. It came at the right time.” She has no hesitation in calling the centre again to enquire about the remaining funds, saying they received proper guidance on what the funds were for, when they would be received and how to go about the process.

She plans to start a business selling fish with the funds yet to be received, as her current work opportunities are unsustainable.

“I am so grateful for what we have received, as we were really struggling at the time, especially with a new baby. This will go a long way towards the plans that I have for the future,” says Chrissy.

Making meaningful investments with CUCI

Goodson Thawani, a CUCI beneficiary based in Blantyre, praised the ease of which the call centre is accessible and user-friendly.

 “I called just to find out if I was a beneficiary, I was really hoping that I would be. The operator was very helpful and polite and she answered all my questions with no problem.”

Goodson owns a grocery shop and his wife sells fish, they have a child and his brother-in-law lives with them. The funds they received assisted with fees and school supplies for his child and in-law, as well as helped towards adding to their businesses. The pandemic saw a decrease in customers spending on non-essential items, which greatly reduced his profits. People are now buying out of necessity and most of those items, such as bread, salt, sugar, cooking oil and other basics are at regulated prices.

“We are looking forward to receiving the rest of the money so that we can use it for ploughing our land, where we plan to grow maize. Now is the best time, so that we can be sure to have food next year,” he explains.