Cash transfers help families during COVID-19

Assisting vulnerable households

Lulutani Tembo
14 May 2020

Malawi is home to more than 18 million people. More than half of the population live below the poverty line and 25 per cent live in extreme poverty[1].  As a result, many children are born into poverty, and lack adequate support for their day to day needs or to keep them in school.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings an additional threat to vulnerable families whose livelihoods have been affected due to the preventive measures put in place by the government to stop the spread of the disease. Schools and non-essential businesses remain closed for an indefinite period. Many children rely on school meals programme for one of their major meals of the day. Parents are under extra pressure to provide for their families.

In the central-western district of Ntcheu, some poverty-stricken families are getting a much-needed relief thanks to the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP), locally known as the Mtukula Pakhomo.



Mathando Sauzande receiving her 3 month cash transfer allocation
UNICEF Malawi/2020/Gift Kambdya
Mathando Sauzande receiving her 3 month cash transfer allocation

The Government of Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) is an unconditional transfer targeted to ultra-poor and labor-constrained households. The family of these households receive a monthly cash transfer of about MK 7,000 to help them meet their basic needs. In Balaka and Ntcheu, the programme is being implemented with funding from the Government of Ireland.

It is May 2020 and beneficiaries of the programme are receiving their routine monthly payments. Except this time, they are getting three-months allocation, which will help their families to cope with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19.

Mathando Sauzande is a mother of six and fends for her family by selling mandasi or fatcooks (fried doughnuts).The grin on her face says it all. She is relieved to receive the MK 26,400 cash disbursement to help her family for the next three months.  For some SCTP beneficiaries, the cash transfers will also provide them with the necessary items to protect themselves against the virus.

"This money will help me to buy essential supplies for my household including soap for handwashing to protect us from coronavirus,” she explains. “I’ll be able to invest in a goat and buy school uniforms for my children in case schools reopen soon.”

Alice Mode, a single mother also from Ntcheu received cash transfers to support her family.  “This allowance will help me to grow my potato farming and provide food and clothes for my children,” she says.

Alice Mode receiving a her 3 month cash transfer allowance
UNICEF Malawi/2020/Gift Kambdya
Alice believes the money will help her take of her family during these tough times

In response to COVID-19, UNICEF is providing technical assistance to the Malawi Government for the upcoming ‘Government Urban Cash Initiative’. The initiative extends cash transfer support to vulnerable families living in urban areas who are affected by income losses due to COVID-19.

“UNICEF commends the government for expanding much needed social safety nets in Malawi,” says UNICEF Chief of Social Policy, Beatrice Targa. “Cash transfers in both rural and urban areas have proven to be lifechanging globally, and will be critical to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable families and their children. No one shall be left behind.”

[1] IMF,2017