Why a universal Child Grant makes sense for Nepal
This policy brief considers the evidence for why taking a universal rather than a poverty-targeted approach to Nepal’s Child Grant will achieve the best outcomes for children.
A short history of the Child Grant
The Child Grant was introduced in 2009/10 to support better nutrition for children under five years of age. Every four months, the Child Grant transfers NRs. 800 (US$7.50) to the mother or primary caregiver of eligible children in the geographically remote Karnali region and to poor Dalit households in the rest of the country. As early as 2012, the Government indicated that it intended to extend coverage beyond Dalit households to all poor families with children under five across the country.
Like Nepal’s other social security schemes, the Child Grant is managed by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MOFALD) and delivered through local government infrastructure. The Child Grant reaches around 80 per cent of the target population and, although the transfer amount is small, recipients use the money as best they can for the well-being of their children. It has also led to a dramatic increase in birth registration rates among recipient households – now 90 percent compared with a national average of 58 percent (Adhikari et al., 2014; VARG & UNICEF, 2015; CBS, 2015). Evidence suggests that an increase in benefit levels alongside improvements to delivery systems could lead to measurable changes in the nutritional status of children (VARG & UNICEF, 2015; de Groot et al., 2015; Hagen-Zanker & Mallet, 2016). To this end, MOFALD is looking at ways to automatically link birth registration and enrolment for the grant, increase the frequency of registration, and start delivering payments via banks.