SEATTLE — Since the 1990’s, large-scale cash transfer programs have played a key role in reducing poverty among societies’ most vulnerable: children.
“Cash transfers have demonstrated a strong potential to reduce poverty and strengthen children’s education, health, and nutrition, and thus can form a central part of a social protection strategy for families affected by HIV and AIDS,” wrote Michelle Adato and Lucy Bassett in the Health and Human Rights Journal.
Cash transfer programs in Kenya and Lesotho have both met with success. They have each seen a significant impact on poverty reduction, school enrollment and birth registration for orphans and other vulnerable children.
In Kenya, the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC) Project was approved in 2009 as an expansion of its pilot program. To qualify for the program, a household must be poor, without any other source of cash benefits, and house orphans or vulnerable children under the age of 18.
In 2009, when the International Development Association (IDA) and other partners revived the project they expanded the program to reach 47,000 households. At that time, the World Bank estimated that there were 2.4 million OVC living in Kenya, 30 percent of which were children living in poverty. Approximately 600,000 of those children lived in extremely poor households.
In Lesotho, a country ranked 162nd on the United Nation’s Human Development Index, OVC have benefited from the flexibility of cash transfers too.
Nthabiseng Moshate, a 23-year-old woman living in Lesotho who was profiled in The Guardian last September, says the grants she has received have meant that she could put food on the table for her five-year-old daughter, her sister’s daughter and two siblings left in her care after her mother died of AIDS.
“The grants make a big difference,’’ said Moshate. “With the money, I have been able to send my sister’s daughter to school and feed the children here.”
A 2013 study by Oxford Policy Management found that nearly all the families who received grants spent the money on their children. The study also found a rise in the percentage of boys enrolling in school; a 15 percent reduction in child mortality; and a 37 percent increase in birth registrations.
But other long term strategies are also needed. “What we are really focusing on is how to provide [people]with livelihood projects and wean them from these handouts,” said Molahlehi Letlotlo, Lesotho minister of social development. “We are working with our development partners to try to address the root cause of the vulnerabilities.