Gender and Development Minister Julia Duncan Cassell will today launch the EU funded Social Cash Transfer (SCT) Program for Maryland County, an initiative that will give free cash to at le3ast 3000 "extremely poor" and "labor-constrained" citizens in that county.
The ceremony which takes place at the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Gender and Development office in Monrovia will be attended by UNICEF Resident Representative Isabel Crowley, officials from the European Union and senior government officials and partners. Maryland was selected for the SCT programme based on the Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey which identified it as the next most food insecure county in Liberia after Bomi County.
The expansion is being done based on the successful implementation of the pilot project in Bomi which benefits 1,900 extremely poor labour constrained families. The programme will run for the next two years on a new funding of €2.4 million from EU released in November 2011. With this additional funding, UNICEF is able to continue the SCT programme in Bomi and expand to 3,000 extremely poor labour constrained families in Maryland. The programme will therefore be benefiting over 5,000 extremely poor labour constrained families in the two counties.
The funding support from EU not only supports direct cash payment to poor and labour constrained families but also provides technical support for strengthening implementation, evaluation and monitoring of the SCT programme in the two counties. For instance, the number of staff working for the SCT Secretariat has been increased from just three to 30 members thus drastically improving its human resource base and hence its effectiveness. To support their work in the field, UNICEF handed over two Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles and six motorbikes to the Ministry of Gender and Development in March 2012.
Evaluation on the programme effectiveness in Bomi County indicates that the beneficiaries have improved their living standards through, Improved food consumption (better nutrition), Improved food security as poor people were able to hire labour for planting food crops, Home improvements (zinc roofing and concrete floors),Improved school enrolment and retention through paying educational costs and Investments in income generating opportunities (purchase of small livestock/petty trading). The support in Maryland County, as seen in Bomi County, will help children of the extremely poor and labour constrained families to attend school, eat better and nutritious food and live under a safe roof.
The EU's generous support will enable these children to grow up to their full potential. As the programme moves forward in the coming months, it will become a key component of the Government of Liberia's expanding set of safety net programming. With the continued support of the Government and its partners, the programme will continue to lift Liberians out of extreme poverty.