The COVID-19 period has largely been a time of doom and gloom, until now.
The good news this time is that the Swedish government has reallocated US$4 million (Approximately UGX14.8 billion) of the US$25m it had earmarked for West Nile region, to be given to vulnerable mothers, in hard cash.
The money is part of the Swedish government’s effort to help West Nile region deal with after effects of COVID-19 amidst the influx of refugees, most of whom are resettled in the area.
The hefty cash donations, worth at least UGX96,000 per mother, is aimed at improving their nutrition as well as the nutrition of children below two years.
An estimated 56,000 women, both refugees and from the host communities, who are either pregnant or have a baby under 2 years have been registered.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) working with the office of the Prime Minister and local government officials in eight districts, will implement the first ever direct cash transfer of its kind targeting vulnerable families.
The WFP Country Director El-Khidir Daloum, said: “The transfer is intended to stabilize the women and children’s feeding following disruptions in their access to nutritious food during the COVID-19 lockdown, which coincided with WFP ration cuts.” Daloum added:
“The people to be assisted are the most vulnerable as identified by their communities.”
Although WFP and sister UN agencies have previously been channeling cash to refugees, host communities benefitted directly through shared social services such as health services, water points and improved education facilities.
The adoption of cash represents a marked shift in the strategy toward helping poor and vulnerable people.
As Daloum remarked: “Cash transfers remain the most widely used tool for social assistance by governments around he world and the World Bank and the International monetary fund, are recommending stronger social support to help the hardest hit population cope with the secondary effects big COVID-19.”
Daloum expressed gratitude to the government of Sweden for its flexibility in the implementation of support programs targeting vulnerable poor.
Ola Hällgren, the Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden responded that the flexibility is a result of the close partnership with WFP ‘that allowed us to quickly adapt our support at a time of crisis, re-allocating US$ 4 million to the emergency transfer.’
Hällgren added: “Through this support and other interventions, Sweden remains committed to contributing to Uganda’s efforts to address the negative impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities.”
WFP’s Daloum expressed optimism that the beneficiary mothers shall put the money for feeding themselves and the children as opposed to spending the funds in other wasteful ventures, as the experience has proved when men are given cash for such noble causes.
The beneficiaries have been identified in the 8 districts of: Adjumani, Arua, Madi Okollo, Koboko, Moto, Moyo, Obongi Terego and Yumbe.
Dr. Robert Limlim, the Director, of the OPM office responsible for ensuring the success of the exercise, pledged total transparency and strict adherence to ethical conduct to avoid funds going to undeserving persons.