Social cash transfers are helping communities withstand emergencies in Malawi

Social cash transfers are helping communities withstand emergencies in Malawi

17/04/2018

Inclusive Development Article

 

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also prone to recurring emergencies, caused predominantly by climate risks.

In 2015, Malawi experienced its worst floods in 50 years. Recently, the country also experienced the strongest El Niño events of the last 35 years, which resulted in severe droughts and two consecutive years of poor harvests. During the last emergency response, 6.7 million Malawians or approximately 40% of the population were identified as requiring emergency assistance.

 

 

Increasing the resilience of communities most vulnerable to shock

Given this context, there is a need to increase the resilience of communities most vulnerable to shock. While humanitarian responses in Malawi are usually classified as emergency programmes, in practice, "emergency" responses are implemented almost on an annual basis, as a way to address both the seasonal consequences of chronic food insecurity, as well as exceptional needs arising from extreme events.

A national social protection programme was established in 2012, in order to build the country’s resilience and preparedness to emergency shocks. The programme has 5 pillars: Social Cash Transfers Programme, Public Works Programme, School Meals Programme, Village and Savings Loans and Microfinance.

The Social Cash Transfers Programme, locally known as Mtukula Pakhomo, which means empowering the household, is an unconditional cash transfer programme, supported by the EU. The programme targets ultra-poor and labour-constrained households. It began as a pilot in one district in 2006 and has since expanded to reach 18 out of the country’s 28 districts. By December 2015, the programme had reached over 163,000 beneficiary households.

So far, the EU has funded the programme across seven districts, and has reached 65,000 households, amounting to about 270,000 individuals. Women head two-thirds of these households and there are a considerable number of beneficiaries living with disabilities and chronic diseases.

Currently, only the bottom 10 % of each district receives support. In a few years, it is hoped that the programme will cover all of the country’s districts and the arbitrary 10% threshold will be removed.

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Malawi, building resilience for most vulnerable communities

 

The EU’s new social policy and resilience programme

The EU, through a new social policy and resilience programme, will continue to support the Social Cash Transfers Programme and its extension and focus on strengthening the system for improved delivery and shock-sensitivity. This will be realised by complementing it with a component that allows for increasing the transfer values, as well as the number of beneficiaries, in case of and as a response to a shock.

Thanks to the programme, Malawi has built its resilience and has transformed people’s lives in the face of multiple and severe shocks. Positive impacts have been measured across economic, health and educational dimensions of people’s lives and especially amongst the poorest. The programme recorded strong improvements in people’s economic situations, children’s school participation and people’s health.

As the Social Cash Transfers Programme has expanded, it has become a cornerstone of Malawi's response to recurring shocks. While the programme has achieved a lot, much more is to come as most stakeholders recognise the still untapped potential of using social protection mechanisms in emergency contexts.

 

factbox
  • Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world.
  • During the last emergency response, 6.7 million Malawians or approximately 40 % of the population required emergency assistance.
  • The National Social Support Policy has 5 pillars, including the Social Cash Transfers Programme.
  • The programme currently covers 18 out of 28 districts.
  • 163 000 beneficiary households benefitted by December 2015, including 65 000 in the EU-funded districts.
  • Positive impacts have been measured across economic, health and educational dimensions of people’s lives, especially amongst the poorest.
  • The EU is initiating a new social policy and resilience programme worth EUR 50 million, managed by the EU Delegation to Malawi.