Lessons from emergency cash assistance

A monitoring visit conducted on 5th of November 2019 by partners Concern Worldwide, European Commission ECHO, Pastoralist Integrated Support Programme (PISP), ACTED and PACIDA provided key learning on the impact of mobile cash transfer during drought emergency response among communities of Lengima and Lekuchula zones of Laisamis Sub County in Marsabit County of Kenya. The joint visit also brought on board members of County Assembly for Korr and Ngurnit Wards of Laisamis Sub County.

“Cash assistance has had a positive impact on my life”

The visiting team from European Commission, ACTED and PACIDA interviewed Manpiam, 40, in Lengima village and learnt about her living conditions and livelihood options. She is a widow raising four children, her husband died from an illness two years ago.  “Before the cash assistance, I was begging neighbours for food support. I had no livestock and with no husband and no job I was quickly edging towards a family crisis,” she informed the visitors.

Although Manpiam does not own a mobile phone, she has a sim card registered in her name, when she needs to call or check her mobile cash balance and conduct mobile cash transactions, she borrows a phone from one of her neighbours and inserts the sim card to connect to the local network. “When I received my first cash assistance of 4,700 Kenya Shillings, I used 3,000 Shillings to clear debts that had been piling at the local shop. I used the balance of 1,700 Shillings to buy food (rice, beans, meat and milk) and pay school fees for my two boys,” she explained.

Manpiam understands the value of financial prudence, saving by controlling her cash withdrawal she only uses her money when there is an absolute need. Somehow, not having a mobile phone also helps especially when checking the spending impulse. She has also paid 200 Shillings school fees for each of the children and they are able to continue with their education. Interestingly, Manpiam remains generous to other less fortunate members of her community. She continues to share her meager resources with those who cannot afford what she is able to get.

A boost for the local economy

The ECHO monitoring team learnt that the cash support helped to boost the general economy of the community by injecting new purchasing power that enabled traders to order fresh supplies from Laisamis, Merrile and Marsabit towns. With community members clearing debts at a higher rate, cash flow improved making it possible for traders to restock their shops and also repay their own debts. “Commodities such as maize, rice, beans, sugar and cooking oil are popular and moving fast. We have to order fresh supplies every week,” says one of the traders. A kilogram of maize costs 70 Kenya Shillings (0.7 US Dollars), a kg of rice is 100 Shillings (1 US Dollar) and beans cost 80 shillings per kg in Lengima village. However, except for onions and tomatoes, other vegetables such as cabbages are not very popular because the locals do not know how to cook them well.

Public forums with community members

During a community meeting in Lekuchula the chairperson of the cash transfer committee, Mr. Ladapar Nembare expressed the positive impact of the timely cash assistance explaining that the activity averted many deaths that could have occurred due to hunger and disease. “We started with meetings and brainstorming and once we had a common mission, we began the process of selecting the most vulnerable 50 households. The registration process took time since many people did not have registered sim-cards and they needed to be assisted,” he said. Smart survey results released earlier had demonstrated high malnutrition rates in Laisamis and together with other assessments that highlighted the isolation and remoteness of most villages in Laisamis formed part of the justification that was used to identify the location in need of emergency assistance.

“Many children were dropping out of school. Without any assistance the situation would have become a case of schools closing down because of lack of attendance. Luckily, households that received the cash assistance retained their children in school, after paying back school fees arrears and continued to receive educational services,” said Jackson Lengima, 45, a community member.

“During the emergency cash assistance, the selected households were clearly the most vulnerable. The elderly, the people with disabilities and the sick could not access the borehole during the drought. Only means of transport this side is motorbike. Most times we travel on foot,” said Ngalotu Lesuper, 41, from Lengima. She explained that she had witnessed women delivering babies along the way to a hospital due to the long distance and lack of transport.

With the recent rains, the communities at Lengima and Lekuchula depend on rock water catchment to get fresh water. However, sanitation and hygiene is still a big challenge due to lack of proper latrines, open defecation heightens the risk of diarrhea and water contamination.

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