By Lwandamo Katondo

Disbursement of the pilot 1000 Days Social Cash Transfer (SCT) Nutrition Cash Plus inaugural bimonthly payments to 1,723 eligible mother households in Kalabo district of Western province has commenced.

Kalabo district commissioner Musangu Njamba said the Zambian Government considers social protection as a key strategy to reducing poverty as well as promote equity and human rights among vulnerable households in need of support.

Mr Njamba was speaking at Nang’umba primary school when he launched the project and flagged of the disbursement of the inaugural bimonthly payments.

“Government of the Republic of Zambia (has) introduced the 1000 Days SCT Nutrition Cash Plus initiative targeted at making the main SCT programme more sensitive to the nutrition needs of women and children. Implementation of the pilot project is led by the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS), in collaboration with Ministry of Health and the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) with technical support from UNICEF,” he said.

Mr Njamba explained that the project only targets vulnerable households with breastfeeding mothers having children who are under 24 months of age.

The district commissioner added that the project also targets pregnant mothers.

“It also covers beneficiaries (already enrolled) on the main SCT programme who meet the 1000 days criteria. Its aim is to improve the nutrition outcomes of (target) children up to 24 months,” he said.

Mr Njamba noted that the Social Cash Transfer program on its own was not sufficient hence the need to link it to other interventions such as nutrition in a bid to reduce stunting among the target children.

“Beneficiaries for this project who are not on the main SCT programme are receiving K400.00 plus a nutrition top up amount of K150.00 bringing the total to K550.00 bimonthly. For beneficiaries already on the main SCT programme who are also part of the project, those will continue to receive their usual K400.00 plus a nutrition top up amount of K150.00 bimonthly,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Mr Njamba clarified that beneficiary households with persons with disabilities are not part of the 1000 Days Social Cash Transfer (SCT) Nutrition Cash Plus project because it does not attract double cash transfers provided under the main SCT programme.

The district commissioner further implored the 1000 Days Social Cash Transfer (SCT) Nutrition Cash Plus beneficiaries not to take their enrollment for granted but instead put the bimonthly payments to good use because at some point they would be weaned from the project.

“Beneficiaries will be removed from the project when a child or children in the registered household reaches the age of 24 months. Furthermore, a household will be removed when the child beneficiary or pregnant mother dies or when a pregnancy does not result in a live birth,” he stressed.

Mr Njamba has since thanked UNICEF and other cooperating partners for the continued support they were rendering to the Zambian Government, adding that there is political will and public policy adequately envisioned for improved nutrition in the country.

And one of the beneficiaries, Bindundu Katiba, 24, of Mushukula village in Namatindi sub-chiefdom expressed optimism that the K550.00 bimonthly payments she has started receiving would be able to improve the nutritional intake and dietary diversity of her 11-months old baby girl and the household at large.

“This bimonthly support will enable me source for nutritious foodstuffs for my baby in order to promote her cognitive development as well as  avert stunting and other forms of malnutrition,” she said.

Meanwhile, Social Cash Transfer nutrition district coordinator  Katungu Mwendaendi disclosed that out of the total number of  1000 Days Social Cash Transfer (SCT) Nutrition Cash Plus beneficiaries in Kalabo, only 62 were already enrolled onto the main SCT programme while 1,661 were not, bringing the total to 1,723 beneficiaries across the district.

Speaking at the same function, Chief Simioti paid glowing tribute to government for addressing the plight of vulnerable mothers in Namatindi sub-chiefdom.

The traditional leader further appealed to beneficiaries not to misuse the nutritional empowerment.

The Social Cash Transfer 1000 Days Nutrition Cash Plus project is one of the components of Zambia’s social protection interventions through which bimonthly grants are given to vulnerable households who meet the required benchmarks in a bid to improve nutrition among target beneficiaries.

The pilot project is being implemented in four districts of Zambia namely Kalabo in Western province, Chipata in Eastern province, Mpika in Muchinga province and Mwinilunga in North Western province subject to vulnerable household beneficiaries meeting a predetermined means and needs test.