By IREEN MULENGA
The World Bank is providing $105 million to help secure the livelihoods of at least 300,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households in Zambia, including women and girls, amidst the ongoing shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sahr Kpundeh World Bank Country Manager for Zambia said that the Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment (GEWEL) project provides cash transfers to all existing social cash transfer (SCT) program.
He said beneficiary households is gradually scaling-up coverage to a further 378,000 beneficiary households over 18 months.
Mr Kpundeh said a total coverage of almost 1 million households will be achieved for the SCT program – which will represent 30% of the Zambian population or 50% of the poor.
He said GEWEL has so far provided more than 28,000 girls from poor households with secondary school bursaries and 75,000 poor women in Zambia with livelihood packages, including, life and business skills training, mentorship, and support through savings groups.
Mr Kpundeh said the additional financing will continue to support these components, enhancing capacities, and systems through the ministries of Gender, Community Development and Social Services, and General Education.
“The GEWEL program has already made important contributions over the past five years towards increasing the school enrollment of adolescent girls from poor households and improving the livelihoods of poor women,
“But poverty is still prevalent. The negative impacts of COVID-19 come on the back of multiple drought years, and without safety nets the poor don’t have other means of protecting themselves. This financing will, therefore, provide a first line of defense for the poor in the face of COVID-19,” he said.
He said World Bank surveys have shown that since the start of the pandemic, rural households are facing reduced income from nonfarm business and reduced or lost wages.
Mr Kpundeh said that Incomes from farming were also reduced for over half of households surveyed, while domestic remittances have also fallen since the outbreak.
“Previous impact evaluations of the SCT program have shown that timely and predictable transfers resulted in important human capital and productivity impacts for households said Emma Hobson, World Bank Senior Social Protection Specialist. “Impacts included higher rates of schooling among children, better health outcomes, and increased agricultural productivity levels among recipient households.
“This additional financing from the International Development Association (IDA) together with the current financing, will facilitate immediate disbursements for timely and predictable cash transfers to a total of 616,000 households in 116 districts that are already registered, and will allow the SCT program to scale up to 994,000 households within the coming 18 months,” he said.
He said GEWEL also received additional financing last year, including an additional IDA credit $142 million, as well as $35 million in co-financing grants from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Swedish International Development Association, which are jointly funding the program.
Mr Kpundeh said Irish Aid also provides financing for technical assistance to GEWEL. The original GEWEL project was approved in 2015 in the amount of $65 million.