By Watipaso Mzungu
Until July 10, 2021 when she breathed her last at the age of 83, Tamanyauli Chisambi had been supporting her five grandchildren with a monthly allowance of K8,000 from the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP).
Chisambi, who came from Loti Chisambi Village in Traditional Authority M’mbelwa in Mzimba, lost two of her daughters to HIV and Aids between 2014 and 2015.
They left behind five children for their then 79-year-old frail mother to feed, clothe and educate.
And with prices of farm inputs rising sharply, the widowed grandmother could not even dream of applying fertiliser to her two-acre crop field.
The harvest, thus, was too little to take the family to the next season.
“She used all her monthly allowances for buying food for us. We all dropped out of school because the money was not enough to cater for our tuition fees as well,” narrates Maupo, Chisambi’s eldest grandson.
SCTP was piloted in Mchinji in 2016 as a social protection programme to reduce levels of poverty and vulnerability in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
In Malawi, social protection interventions target elderly, the chronically ill, children, persons with disability and single mothers with the aim of building systems to improve the delivery of welfare support for people in extreme poverty.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) National Project Coordinator Reagan Kaluluma said social protection is a human right; hence, everyone has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation through national effort and international cooperation.
He was speaking at a meeting in Lilongwe with Parliament’s Committee on Social and Community Affairs.
“Social protection reduces inequality, supports domestic demand, supports inclusive growth, facilitates structural transformation, boosts human capital and productivity, supports cohesions and better societies and, above all, it is a social and economic necessity,” Kaluluma said.
The Malawi National Support Programme (MNSPII), which was adopted in 2018, guides the implementation of social support in Malawi.
It provides a wide-ranging framework for the development of the social protection system in the country.
MNSPII presents a policy shift away from safety nets programming towards more long-term predictable social protection programming that helps poor households deal with risk and shocks through a more institutionalised and coordinated approach.
The policy shifts recognise that households face the twin problems of limited sources of livelihoods and frequent livelihood shocks in line with the scope and spirit of the Malawi 2063 and Sustainable Development Goal 1.
The 2012 National Social Support Policy identified four social protection interventions, namely social cash transfer, school meals, public works and savings and loans groups and microfinance.
However, in the face of chronic poverty, food insecurity and frequent climatic shocks, Malawi’s efforts to provide social support have proven to be inadequate and fragmented.
This results in serious interagency conflicts and lack of coordination arising from lack of complementarities among programmes and lack of productive diversification among the projects implementation coordination.
“The continued lack of coordination between donors, international non-governmental organisations and other funding agencies has been one of the major contributing factors potentially holding back the development of coherent social protection in Malawi,” Kaluluma said in his presentation.
Outreach Scout Foundation (OSF), in collaboration with partners such as ILO and other stakeholders in the social protection sector, has been pushing for a well-coordinated implementation of social protection programmes nationwide to mitigate worsening poverty and inequalities in the population.
ILO Technical Officer on Social Protection, Precious Matandiko, said while Malawi is in the process of reviewing the National Social Support Policy, this direction gives an opportunity to engage policymakers that are eventually going to pass the policy.
“Currently, there are financing gaps that we have seen but we are thankful to the development partners for putting in resources for social protection programmes.
“Everyone needs social protection at one point or another, more especially when you grow old when capacity to earn a decent and sustainable income is reduced,” Matandiko said.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Social and Community Affairs, Savel Kafwafwa, said social protection drive efforts to enhance human capital and productivity, reduce inequalities and build resilience and end inter-generational cycle of poverty.
OSF Executive Director Amon Lukhele said they wanted social protection to be adopted as a programme and not as a social support.
Lukhele said this would ensure that such programmes work in Malawi, as is the case in other countries in the Southern African region.
“We want the social protection programmes to be implemented in totality not in bits and pieces,” he said.
Director of Poverty Reduction and Social Protection in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms, Patricia Zimpita, said the Malawi National Social Support Programme has interventions for addressing perverse poverty.
However, Zimpita admitted that financing for these interventions remains at the mercy of development partners.