By Conrad Onyango
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s flagging off of 42 vehicles and 48 motorcycles to be used in dispensing services to the elderly, orphans and vulnerable children and people living in extreme hunger is a firm commitment that the government is stepping up its social safety net programme.
For the over seven years, Kenya has consistently addressed its social protection gap through a revolutionary cash transfer programme.
Over the last six years, we have seen a significant growth in number of beneficiaries from just over 200,000 to about 1.3 million now.
It means more Kenyans previously living in extreme poverty conditions can now afford a plate of ugali every day, the elderly and disable have constant check ups and pay medical bills out of pocket as many more children are able to better shape their future through increased school enrolment.
Further evidence of this positive development is reflected on the ground, with areas that one would describe as sleeping towns now beaming to life with rise in economic activities.
Among pastoral communities, trade of livestock and presences of butchers and shops has liven up several trade centres that were slowly disappearing in the thicket on slowdown in activities. New trade centres have also sprung up in remote parts of the country due to constant supply of money from the monthly stipend wired directly to beneficiaries’ bank accounts.
So far, percentage of Kenyans living in extreme poverty (those with a monthly household expenditure below Sh 2,000 in rural and below Sh 2,500 in urban areas) has reduced by almost 50 percent to 8.6 percent over the last decade, according to Kenya National Bureau of statistics. This best explains the impact of our cash transfer initiative that wires Sh 2,000 in monthly stipend to beneficiaries.
Consequently, the bureau of statistics shows the country’s population living below poverty line (Household expenditure of Sh 3252) has dropped by 10 percentage points to 36 percent over the period.
This feat has been possible because of government’s commitment to fighting extreme poverty by placing power in the hands of the people to boost their social economic welfare and unrelenting support from stakeholders who share our big dream of a healthy and productive nation.
Worth noting is that we have constantly increased funding to this noble programme from Sh 6.5 billion when it was expanded some time in 2013 to current 26 billion to affirm government’s commitment of reaching out to every vulnerable Kenyan who needs the support.
Sustained investment in infrastructure projects and devolution cannot go unmentioned in quest to improvement of socio-economic wellbeing in rural areas.
We are not relenting in our effort to protect vulnerable Kenyans from the shock of extreme poverty.
Barely a week ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off 42 vehicles and 48 motorcycles courtesy of our strategic partners, World bank, Toyota Kenya, Isuzu East Africa and Simba Corp to ensure every aspect of this transformative social economic initiative is a success.
Moving forward, it will be easy for government officers to improve service delivery to all the beneficiaries of the “Inua Jamii” programme, especially now that we have begun processing Sh9 billion cash transfer disbursement toclose to 1.1 million beneficiaries who have opened bank accounts.
Similarly, we have rolled out a new payment plan dubbed Choice Model to ensure that money wired reaches only targeted beneficiaries. It is a milestone towards doing away with cash handouts, have a controlled and fair distribution to minimise risk of stolen cash.
To boost efficiency and effectiveness, all beneficiaries will now withdraw the money from their individual bank accounts using ATM cards, over the counter and through their mobile money wallets.
All these efforts are aligned to the objectives of National Safety Net Programme (NSNP) that aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of safety net support to poor and vulnerable populations in Kenya.
Creation of a robust and transparent systems for targeting, registration and payments is part of initiative to boost effectiveness of the programme. Through this, we will also be able to effectively monitor and manage rising cases and strengthen the overall governance of the programmes.
We are also inching closer towards harmonising the four Cash Transfer programmes to improve the coherence of the sector and expand the coverage of the four programmes in a coordinated manner to progressively realise the right to safety net support.
With more countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania visiting Kenya on a benchmarking and appreciation tour of the initiative, we can confidently say this life changing initiative has been a success.
The writer is a freelance journalist