By Rebecca Phwitiko, UNICEF Malawi
Mde Chida and her husband grow maize and groundnuts to sustain their six children. Most of what they harvest, they eat. Sometimes they sell a little to pay for household essentials.
“My parents died a long time ago, but what I remember is that we didn’t have much,” says Mde, who is 25 yet looks much older. Mde hopes the coming years will be a bit easier for her children than it was for her and her siblings, growing up.
For a long time Mde’s family of 8 lived in a little house with just one room. A very cozy but extremely uncomfortable arrangement. They put a cloth in the middle to separate the parents space from the children’s. This did not offer any privacy or comfort.
Support for vulnerable communities
The family has begun to receive cash transfers from the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP), locally known as Mtukula Pakhomo. The programme is supported by UNICEF, targeting the poorest families who have little or no assets or are unable to work due to a severe disability, chronic illness or old age.
As a result, Mde and her family have been able to expand their one-room house. They bought firewood which they used to fire bricks. They now live in a house with three clearly demarcated rooms.
They have also used the SCTP money for basic supplies around the house; pots, plates as well as notebooks and pens for their five children who are in school.
They recently bought a goat. “If we can get a male to breed then we will be able to sell the meat and make some extra money. I just want my children to have a life better than mine” says Mde.
Champions on the frontline
For nine years Harry Makombola has worked as a Community Development Assistant in Salima, Central Malawi, where Mde lives. He supports the implementation of government programmes and actively promotes uptake and understanding among the programme recipients. Over the years, he has worked on nutrition initiatives, economic empowerment, education and social protection programmes including the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP).
Harry lives in Mpilingiza village and interacts with the people he serves in many forums. He believes this helps him understand their needs better. Five years ago, the Government of Malawi introduced the SCTP with support from donors such as the German Government, EU, World Bank and Government of Ireland. Salima is one of the SCTP districts where it is managed at the district level by the District Social Welfare Office, with support from extension workers like Harry and volunteers who are members of Community Social Support Committees.
When the programme was introduced, Harry supported the identification of beneficiaries and worked with the CSSC whom he had trained to ensure that the most deserving families were enrolled into the SCTP. It is now in 18 out of the country’s 28 districts. The remaining 10 are being targeted for inclusion later in 2018.
Making the SCTP count
While the money helps, without skills, assets or access to critical services, poor families can’t make meaningful improvements.
“The poor are often socially excluded and may not be aware of the services available to them. They need these services the most to support meaningful investment of their SCTP allowance,” says UNICEF Chief of Social Policy Edward Archibald.
A Linkages and Referral System financed by the Dutch Government in eight districts is linking SCTP beneficiaries to services such as health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, trade and social and community services. Harry says they will now be able to support SCTP beneficiaries like Mde better, to maximize the impact of the SCTP.
The district teams have identified available services in the community and compiled a service directory for the community. Harry believes the linkages and referral system makes it possible to present the SCTP as a package.
“It is not just about beneficiaries getting money to buy food, they also get tips on how to grow more. We know the SCTP beneficiaries and can follow up on them to ensure that they are getting the services they require, such as education,” he says.
Harry works closely with community health workers, teachers, agricultural extension workers and local NGO service providers to improve awareness and uptake of various services in the community.
The goal is to improve the lives of SCTP beneficiaries through the provision of advice and services that will also enable beneficiaries to spend, and invest wisely.