Almost 40 percent of Kenya’s population is considered impoverished; living on $1.25 a day or less and thus the unemployment rate is extremely high. Kenya’s poor have been greatly affected by climate extremes such as droughts. The government hopes to help their poor and lift them out of poverty by giving cash handouts. They hope to give handouts to up to 3.3 million of Kenya’s poorest people affected by droughts and unemployment.

Kenya is able to do this because of a $250 million World Bank loan granted recently. This program comes as a relief to many aid agencies that have long lobbied for a social safety net program for Kenya’s poor.

“The new national social safety net is a brilliant investment, as it will help families break the cycle of poverty in which they may have been trapped for generations,” Diarietou Gaye, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, said in a statement. “Being cushioned against devastating income losses by a small but regular transfer of money from the program helps poor people afford consistent nutrition and healthcare, and keeps children in school.”

Supporters of the program argue the cash handouts will be very helpful during emergencies. Families are able to take better care of themselves during emergencies while they wait for the humanitarian response. This makes the response cheaper because fewer people will sink into destitution and sickness while they wait for aid.

The program will merge several smaller cash handout programs already in place in Kenya- the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, the Hunger Safety Net Program, the Older Persons Cash Transfer, the Urban Food Subsidy Cash Transfer, and the Persons with Severe Disability Cash Transfer. The new program will bring efficiency and coordination between all these smaller programs.

“Kenya, with its long history of various kinds of smaller cash and food transfer programs, is ready to join the global movement today among developing countries towards progressive and efficiently managed national social safety nets,” said Ritva Reinikka, World Bank Director for Human Development in Africa.

Catherine Ulrich

Sources: Alertnet, International Food Policy Research Institute
Photo: PB Works