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Gaps, opportunities in protecting the weak

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REMAIN HIGH—Poverty levels

Forty-one-year-old Dalitso Kachingwe has been a beneficiary of the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) since 2016, when her husband died in Mguwata Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kambwiri, in Salima District.

The husband left her with the responsibility of taking care of five children, but without a reliable source of income.

To alleviate her destitution, social welfare officers at Salima District Council enrolled Kachingwe into SCT programme and thus, for the past four years or so, the family has been receiving a monthly amount of K14,000 to meet its food and nutrition needs.

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But the family foregoes its food and nutrition needs in order to save the money for school fees for one of the children who is in secondary school.

“The intervention was timely, but fell short of addressing my destitution problem. There is no improvement my family has experienced even after being on the programme for these years,” Kachingwe says.

The government is implementing social protection interventions to alleviate poverty and vulnerability among ultra-poor households.

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The safety net programmes are being supported by development partners such as the World Bank.

A survey conducted by the Germany International Cooperation established that in the face of chronic poverty, food insecurity and frequent climatic shocks, Malawi’s efforts to provide social support remain inadequate and fragmented.

The organisation said even though there has been progress, more than two-thirds of the population still live below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.

“To reduce poverty and vulnerability in Malawi effectively, social protection programmes need to be standardised and harmonised. On the one hand, they should respond to the various vulnerabilities people face during their lifetimes by complementing each other. On the other, they can create synergies by using common implementation mechanisms,” the report reads.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) National Project Coordinator, Reagan Kaluluma, said the above forecast underscores the urgent need to considerably increase efforts to reduce poverty in Malawi as small improvements will be easily outpaced by population growth.

Kaluluma added that high and stagnant poverty rates together with Malawi’s demographic profile, in particular the high dependency ratios and the population growth, call for an increased investment in social protection systems, which have internationally shown to contribute to poverty and inequality reduction while fostering more inclusive growth.

“There is increasing evidence of the impact of social protection programmes implemented in Malawi. It is crucial that policymakers develop a comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness, efficiency, impacts and challenges of the country’s social protection programmes in order increase coverage and efficiency, thus providing the indispensable social support Malawians require,” he explained.

With financial support from ILO, Outreach Scout Foundation is currently soliciting their views from traditional leaders on how best the government and its development partners can deliver these social protection interventions.

During an interface meeting that took place at headquarters of Senior Chief Kachindamoto in Dedza, traditional leaders demanded improvements in the implementation of the programmes, including the upward revision of the funds SCTP beneficiaries get monthly.

The chiefs, for instance, feel that the public works programme as part of social protection which ultra-poor people participate in for few days cannot help to uplift their lives out of poverty.

The chiefs said during the discussion that if government was serious about using public works programme among others to move people out of poverty, such programmes needed to be implemented continuously over a long period so that people can get more money to sustain their livelihoods.

Senior Chief Kachindamoto said, while social protection programmes such as school meals helped to keep learners especially girls in school, on the other hand social cash transfer funds at K5,500 per month remained insignificant for families.

“I propose that authorities should consider revising the social cash transfer upwards from K5,500 to at least K20,000 monthly. Imagine a family of 10 in the village, how can they manage to fend for themselves with K5,500? At least with K20,000 they can manage to buy food and some basic necessities,” she said.

OSF executive director Amon Lukhele said the interface with chiefs was organised to know their level of understanding on the role of social protection in national development and how it can be promoted.

Lukhele was saddened with revelations that traditional leaders are not consulted in the implementation of the programme and sidelined in the identification of beneficiaries despite being their subjects.

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