ARTHUR MWANSA, Petauke
â€œI am unable to tell my age, I am too old to remember the day I was born, unless you see my national registration card. What is important to note is that although I am incapable of engaging in any income-generating activity such as agriculture due to old age and limited farming land, at least we afford a meal per day.
â€œI also have access to basic needs and services like health care and water and bath soap,â€ these are words of Vainness Mwanza, one of the beneficiaries of the social cash transfer scheme in Petauke district.
In an effort to help some of the most vulnerable people in the countryâ€™s most food insecure regions, the government launched a scheme to transfer cash to those least able to earn money for themselves.
The history of the social cash transfer in Zambia can be traced back to 2003 in Kalomo district. The scheme began as a response to the increasing vulnerability and poverty arising from the effects of HIV and AIDS.
Ms Mwanza, 85, is looking after her granddaughter, Marina Tembo, 29, who was born with skin cancer, a condition with uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage to skin cells triggers mutations or genetic defects that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumuors.
Despite several times of seeking medical treatment, Ms Tembo has never received any help from the hospital, a situation she has described as heartbreaking not only to her but her grandmo,ther as well.
Ms Tembo feels let down by the community, especially the Church and neighbours.
Beneficiaries of the cash transfer scheme are paid between K140 and K280 on a bi-monthly basis as vulnerable households and those where there are people with disabilities respectively.
Ms Tembo has received a total of K560 since she was registered with the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
The Social Welfare Department is currently implementing the social cash transfer scheme whose purpose is to achieve Millennium Development Goals one, two and three aimed at eradicating extreme poverty,attaining universal primary education and promoting gender equality respectively.
â€œI want to thank Government for introducing the social cash transfer scheme. I do not know what I would have done without this initiative. It has really helped me in taking care of my sick grandchild, more especially that she has been abandoned by her husband because of her condition,â€ a depressed looking Ms Mwanza said.
She resides in headman Chibisaâ€™s village.
The overall goal of the social cash transfer scheme is to reduce extreme poverty and inter-generational transfers of poverty. The purpose is to realise improved well-being in households covered by the scheme.
Social cash transfers aim to provide basic support to people who for reasons beyond their control are unable to provide for themselves.
Violet Mwale, 43, a single mother of six, says the scheme is a blessing in her life.
â€œI now supply beef to butcheries. I can feed and clothe my children. Unlike before, life has improved, although I am faced with the challenge of looking after my 16 -year-old disabled daughter, she has challenges speaking.
â€œImagine at her age she is still crawling, it is really a challenge; I have tried to take her for Physiotherapy but to no avail. I am only calling on well-wishers to assist us with a wheelchair so that my daughter could also attend church,â€ Ms Mwale said.
A total of 6,681 beneficiaries are now receiving cash under the scheme out of the targeted 7,200 in Petauke in Eastern Province.
Another beneficiary, Patricia Lungu, a single and disabled mother, says the social cash transfer scheme has assisted her engage in buying and selling vegetables, cooking oil and soya pieces, a development which has greatly contributed to her household food security.
The scheme has also assisted Ms Lungu, 44, to purchase some roofing sheets for her small house. She is a member of the Community Welfare Assistance Committee (CWAC) and looks forward to expanding her business with a view to helping other vulnerable people in Mushashapango village.
The main role of the CWAC is to identify, in collaboration with the traditional leadership, households that need welfare assistance.
About 189,000 households in Zambia are expected to benefit from the scheme by the end of the year. The scheme, which is aimed at empowering vulnerable people, has already undergone massive scale-up this year, as it extended from 19 to 50 districts out of 103.
CWAC chairperson in Petauke district Erick Ngoma says Government, through the Ministry of Community Development ,Mother and Child Health must continue assisting the poor through the social cash transfer scheme because it has proved to be a powerful relief to the socio-economic challenges of the vulnerable communities where they are being implemented.
ARTHUR MWANSA, Petauke