Cash transfers during the lean season to improve child nutrition

A community health worker interacting with Cecilia while she waits for the days cash payments
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Govati Nyrienda

By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi

It’s the middle of the rainy season in Malawi. The countryside is green and many households are happy to see better rainfall than last year. However, the effects of last year’s poor harvest are still being felt. Many families in Nankumba village in Mangochi district do not have enough food to feed their children. One of these families is Cecilia Martin’s. Food insecurity has led to her one-and-a-half-year-old baby girl, Viola, to suffer from severe malnutrition.

“It was in December when my daughter Viola’s feet started swelling,” Cecilia says. “She would cry when I carry her, and she didn’t have an appetite. My heart was hurting. My husband was so worried. When I noticed her legs were swelling too, I took her to Nankumba Health Centre for treatment.”

When Cecilia arrived at the health center, her child was found with severe acute malnutrition. Viola was admitted to the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme and given ready-to-use therapeutic food. After Viola had been treated for five weeks, she was almost recovered. She is now on the Supplementary Feeding Programme (SFP) and receiving a nutritive porridge locally known as likuni phala. Her family is also benefitting from the linked and adaptive Lean Season Response project, under which they are receiving monthly nutrition cash transfers until March 2019.

Cecilia with her baby girl Viola. Viola’s condition is gradually improving.
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Govati Nyirenda

Daily struggle to find food

Cecilia and her husband both are casual laborer’s in other people’s farms for a living. Sometimes they only manage to earn 500 Kwacha in a week. This has led to their family sometimes not having a balanced meal for a week. “I struggle to feed all three of my children. There are times when we eat once a day,” says Cecilia.  

“When I heard about this additional support I was so happy. I will use the money from the project to buy food to cook diverse type of foods”, Cecilia explains. Cecilia is glad that her daughter is showing good signs of recovery. Viola’s face and feet are no longer swollen. “I am happy with the progress my baby has made. She has more energy now and is able to walk again,” Cecilia says.

A woman receiving her cash at a pay point in Monkey Bay, Mangochi
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Govati Nyrienda

Support from Partners

In October 2018, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee estimated that over 3 million Malawians will be unable to meet their food needs until the next harvest in March 2019. Food insecurity leads to increased sharing of food in households. The food supplements that children receive from the health centre are often shared with other members of the family.

As a result, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and Care International with support from UK Aid, is implementing a Lean Season Response pilot project in Mangochi district. The project provides cash transfers to households with vulnerable children aged 6 to 59 months, pregnant and lactating women, or people living with HIV and AIDS. These households are at the same time benefitting from life-saving nutritional services during the lean season from December 2018 to March 2019.

The cash payment points are usually located under tree near a health centre or at a primary school. There is a table and two chairs for the payment officer and the beneficiary and they receive their cash in an envelope.

In the meantime, Cecilia is glad that her children will be fed this lean season.  “This is not the first child I have had suffering from malnutrition because of lack of food in our household,” she says. “I am confident that with this money all my children will have a proper diet during this lean season and beyond. My children have been suffering. I want them to all be healthy, including my baby Viola.”

Leave a Reply