School enrolment among children in Serenje and Luwingu districts has increased by eight percent as families are able to overcome their financial challenges through the  Social Cash Transfer programme, a joint Government of Zambia and UNICEF impact evaluation report has revealed.

The report, from a research dubbed ‘Making Poor Families More Resilient and Stimulating Economic Activity’, indicates that even though only 13 percent of these communities under study had a primary school and even less have a secondary school, the cash transfers helped families overcome financial barriers to schooling.

The report indicated that the cash transfer had led to an increase in school enrolment of eight percent among children and 18 percent among adolescent girls in Serenje and Luwingu districts.

The ‘Making Poor Families More Resilient and Stimulating Economic Activity’ is an on-going randomized control trial, evaluating the effectiveness of the cash transfer programme since 2010. The evaluation has been measuring the impact among families for two to three years after they enrolled into the programme.

This research was commissioned by the Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health in partnership with UNICEF Zambia and implemented by the Washington DC-based American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA).

Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health permanent secretary Professor Elwyn Chomba observed that the Government cash grants had allowed families to invest in the well-being of children through improved health, nutrition, education, and protection of their children.

And AIR principal researcher and co-author of the study David Seidenfeld observed that financial stability among the beneficiaries from the cash transfer had greatly improved people’s lives in the country.

Mr. Seidenfeld however said there was need for Government to invest more in the health and education sectors because the cash that was given to beneficiaries alone was not enough.

“After three years of study, families that received cash transfers are significantly more secure in terms of their finances and food supply, and are more resilient to withstand unplanned setbacks. At the same time, the report’s big takeaway for the government, donors and policymakers is that cash alone can’t accomplish everything. The country needs to invest in health and education services to fully realize the potential of the cash transfers,” Mr. Seidenfeld said.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Zambia representative Dr Hamid el-Bashir, said there was need for proper linkages between the cash transfer and other areas of social protection such as health, including HIV prevention.

Researchers interviewed over 5,500 households in five districts and the evidence was that small-scale cash transfers to poor rural households could not only alleviate poverty but also stimulate economic and productive activity.

The programme was found to play a vital role in reducing debt and allowing households to make critical investments, making resilience a key impact.

In particular, during the harvest season, with more food available, families used the cash transfers to invest in chickens, mosquito nets (to protect against malaria) and farm tools.

Recipient households also invested in improved housing conditions, building latrines and cement floors, which all have positive health implications.

Since 2010, households enrolled into the Social Cash Transfer programme have received a monthly grant of K 60 and later K70.

No conditions are attached to how the money could be spent.

In 2014, the Government built on the overall success of the Social Cash Transfer programme by increasing funding from K17.5 million to K150 million and also by expanding the eligibility criteria so it could help more families than just those with children under five.

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