Principal Secretary for Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Mr Isaac Katopola, led various stakeholders in officially launching a report on the assessment of government support to vulnerable families by SOS Children’s villages Malawi in Lilongwe on 24th March 2021, with a call to all stakeholders to support the government in financing the social protection programmes for vulnerable families to increase its current reach to benefit more deserving vulnerable families in the country.

While launching the report, Katopola said his ministry was very grateful for such an informative report, such reports provide critical input in both the policy and programme design of social protection programmes and he assured stakeholders that the report will not just gather dust, rather some key recommendations proposed by the report will be adopted to improve the social protection sector for vulnerable families in the country.

SOS Children’s Villages Malawi commissioned the study to assess existing social protection support systems available to vulnerable families and their children with particular focus on children without adequate parental care in Mzimba, Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Chikwawa.

The report brings to light three key advocacy issues that calls for urgent attention by government with support from all key stakeholders in the social protection sector. Firstly, the report notes that while the country has experienced an expansion of social protection programmes across all 28 districts, coverage within the districts remain low and not in correlation with the prevailing poverty profiles. Secondly, the report notes that low coverage is mostly as a result of the policy design for example in the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP), the strict 10% cut off threshold leads to a lot of exclusion errors, in the process, leaving out a lot of deserving beneficiaries. Lastly, transfer levels of Social Cash Transfer and Public Works Programmes (PWP) are too low to have significant impact on household poverty.

To address this, the report proposes a number of strategies like increasing coverage beyond the 10% cut off threshold, upscaling the United Beneficiary Registry which provides a one-stop reference point for obtaining household data on households eligible for social protection interventions, and also that programme coverage on district level should be informed by ultra-poverty profiles.

SOS Children’s Villages Malawi National Director, Mr. Smart Namagonya, said the assessment on government support to vulnerable families was mainly done in light of the 2019 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions on the right of the child, which specifically focused on children without adequate parental care and  calls for government’s action to realise the rights of children who have lost parental care or are at risk of losing parental care and it also urges state parties to provide gender-sensitive social protection systems and targeted cash transfers for families in vulnerable situation.

“This report is an advocacy tool to both celebrate the achievements made in the social protection sector in the country as a whole and targeted districts in particular and also to generate dialogue on the critical gaps available, propose strategies of addressing the gaps to achieve the leaving no one behind agenda, which is a central transformative promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” said Namagonya.

The report also advocates for all stakeholders to support the government to finance social protection programmes for vulnerable families and children to enable them become self-reliant and enhance their capacities to provide quality care to their children.

On his part, a representative of the civil society organisations (CSOs) from Council for Non-Government Organisations (CONGOMA) Simekinala Kaluzi joined Mr. Katopola in thanking SOS Children’s Villages Malawi for the comprehensive assessment report on government support to vulnerable families. . “Shortly the government will be reviewing the Malawi National Social Support Programme (MNSSP), and this report will be very handy in this review and the recommendations in this report are proposing practical strategies towards the poverty eradication agenda in the country.” Said Kaluzi

Social protection programmes provide relevant family support to vulnerable families, enabling them to provide child care to their children and preventing family separation. And delivery of quality social protection programmes calls for concerted efforts from all stakeholders.