Cash transfer programme supports women in Kassala state

Women in 5 Arab village in Kassala state applaud MCCT+ programme

Reem Abbas
Khamsa Arab health center
10 February 2022

5 Arab (Khamsa Arab) is a small village in River Atbara locality in Kassala state on the road from Wadi Halfa locality. It lies in the heart of the rich agricultural Butana region in Eastern Sudan which continues to have significant poverty rates.

Kassala state has high rates of maternal mortality and high rates of child malnutrition. Recent statistics show that Kassala state has child stunting rates of 43.83 percent.

For this reason, the state was selected as one of the sites for the Mother and Child Cash Transfers (MCCT+) programme which is a multi-year social protection programme that provides cash grants to pregnant women and children under two years of age to support the first thousand days of a child’s life and promotes women's health by providing care services for pregnant and lactating women and by also training midwives in rural and urban areas. The programme is piling on UNICEF’s integrated approach by promoting safe health and nutrition practices among beneficiaries and extending WASH services to targeted communities.

Fatima Salih, a midwife who is now a supervisor at the 5 Arab Health Center where she worked for 22 years in the village.

She registered the women in the village in early 2021 and oversaw the process of handing out the cash transfers. She also supports in the provision of pre-natal care to the women.

“Before this programme, we had few women arriving at the center for pre-natal care and consultations and we also faced problems transferring them to hospitals if there are any complications, but now most of the pregnant women in the village come to receive pre-natal care and they also have the resources to go to the hospital because of the cash transfer,” said Salih.

Salih helps the women put together a delivery plan which includes arranging the hospital bag and logistics as well as what to purchase for the mother and baby.

Khamsa Arab health center
Awadia Ibrahim, the lead at the Reproductive Health unit at the River Atbara locality.

Awadia Ibrahim, the lead at the Reproductive Health unit at the River Atbara locality credits the programme for increasing pre-natal access to women and reducing maternal mortality.

“Last year, we had an average as low as 25 and the highest was 200 to 300 pregnant women receiving pre-natal care at the health centers in the locality on a monthly basis, now, I record over 3,000 women on a monthly basis, this is unprecedented. We also didn’t have any maternal mortality,” said Awadia.

Awadia also commented that the cash transfers is critical for pre-natal and post-partum care for mothers.

“I’ve spoken to women who received the cash transfers and without it, they wouldn’t have been able to prepare for birth and buy the basic items they need,” said Awadia.

Salha Omer, a mother of 3 and a beneficiary said that Fatima Salih called them and reached out through the women-led coffee gatherings to inform them about MCCT+.

“We registered and we waited until we received the transfer. When I did, I stocked up on all the basic food items for my children, I can’t tell you how happy they are,” said Salha.

Sawsan Mohamed, a 30-year old mother of two children and a housewife, also registered at the 5 Arab Health Center and had received the second cash transfer aimed at pregnant women in November 2021.

“I really benefited from the grant, I bought milk and food items for my family. I was finally able to prepare for giving birth,” said Sawsan.

Sawsan was also able to receive pre-natal care and follow-up with a doctor as part of the programme.

Several beneficiaries in 5 Arab said that they were able to purchase non-food items that were unaffordable to them such as post-partum sanitary pads which they always had to de-prioritize due to scarce resources.

In addition to the care and the cash transfer, Fatima provides vitamins to the pregnant women and continues to follow-up on their hemoglobin level throughout the pregnancy.

“Before this programme, at least 50% of the women had anemia due to lack of vitamins, lack of pre-natal care and poor diet diversity, it is now very rare,” said Fatima.

Khamsa Arab health center
Amani Osman, one of the beneficiaries of the MCCT+ programme, cooks lunch for her five children.

Naema Al-Haj, a 45-year-old mother to 6 children and a beneficiary said that she received vitamins during her pregnancy.

“I received vitamins and a mosquito net and when I received the cash transfer, I planned better and bought everything I needed for the birth process,” said Naema.

The MCCT+ programme is currently being implemented in Kassala State and Red Sea State in partnership with government entities. To date, MCCT+ has registered more than 50,000 pregnant women and 13,000 beneficiaries had received their cash entitlements in 2021.