Kenya: Govt to End Free Sh1,000 Weekly M-Pesa Transfer to Poor Households in October

The government will in October stop free weekly cash transfers to poor households affected by the economic knocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, ending six months of social safeguards to the vulnerable groups.

Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui told Parliament that the payments would be terminated in the first week of October.

Some 341,958 households have since May received the weekly Sh1,000 stipends to cushion them from the dire economic conditions caused by the pandemic.

The government estimates that a total of Sh1.36 billion is transferred to the beneficiaries monthly.

The recipients are spread across low-income urban informal settlements, including Mathare, Kibera, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Mukuru Kwa Reuben in Nairobi, Nyalenda in Kisumu and Banglandesh in Mombasa among others.

The State targeted households with a high poverty index and where the head or the bread winner is disabled, widowed or an orphan.

Mr Chelugui told MPs that the initial Sh10 billion allotted for the cash transfer scheme was disbursed to recipients by the Interior ministry via M-pesa.

The CS said the weekly cash transfer programme aims to reach a total population of 669,000 households across all the 290 constituencies in the 47 counties.

"Targeting is still ongoing for the remaining balance of 327,042 households into the programme who will be paid up to the first week of October 2020," Mr Chelugui said.

The first phase of the cash transfer programme targeted those in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi - which were put under lockdowns -- where a total of 85,300 households were reached.

Targeted households

The second phase focused on 180,800 households in a further 17 counties -- Nakuru, Kirinyaga, Meru, Kakamega, Embu, Kiambu, Nyeri, Uasin-Gishu, Kisumu, Murang'a, Kajiado, Kisii, Machakos, Mandera, Tharaka-Nithi, Naymira and Migori.

The third lot of disbursements will benefit an additional 400,000 households in the 26 remaining counties.

Currently 75,858 of the intended 400,000 targeted households are already enrolled in the programme.

Cash transfers have become the most widely used social protection responses by governments the world over during the Covid-19 pandemic. While some countries introduced cash transfers from scratch, others expanded existing ones, with mobile money preferred owing to its efficiency.

The scheme has, however, been dogged by controversy amid concerns that some of the disbursements may be ending up in the pockets of those who don't qualify or need it. Some officials at the grassroots have been accused of only registering their cronies and relatives in the programme.

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