World Bank to Finance Safety Net for a Million People in Niger

May 2011
Washington DC, USA, May, 19 2011 - The World Bank ’s Board approved today a new credit of US$70 million to implement a comprehensive social safety net system in Niger, where an estimated 60 percent of people lived below the poverty line in 2008 and over half the population lacks food security. The funds will support about one million people over five years in a country hard hit by frequent drought and high food prices.

While Niger’s frequent food crises have so far been addressed mostly through short-term emergency assistance, the new safety net system will help poor and food-insecure people to access regular cash transfer and cash-for-work programs. It will focus on the five regions of Dosso, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillaberi and Zinder, where poverty is most concentrated and people are most vulnerable to food insecurity.

“An efficient safety net system is a solid investment for the future of Niger, where chronic malnutrition threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of children during frequent mid-year famines,” said Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Country Director for Niger. “When vulnerable households can access a system that protects them from shocks, human development indicators such as nutritional status and school enrollment are very likely to improve over time and Niger’s economy stands to gain from higher productivity.”

In 2006, chronic malnutrition as measured by stunting (low height-for-age) was estimated at 50 percent among children under five years of age, making Niger the second-worst affected country in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Through a small but regular cash transfer of about US$20 (10,000 FCFA) per month for 24 months, 80,000 households, each consisting of seven to eight people on average, will benefit from an increase in income over a period of five years. Payments will be made to women through designated payment agencies, mostly microfinance institutions and mobile phone companies, and are expected to significantly improve food consumption among registered households.

As a soft condition, those receiving cash will be required to attend training and sensitization sessions aimed at improving household health, nutrition, and sanitation practices. This dimension will be developed with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and implemented by non-governmental organizations.

Through cash-for-work programs in areas affected by temporary acute food insecurity, about 15,000 people will receive approximately 60 days of temporary work annually, for a total of 60,000 people over five years. Non-governmental organizations will be hired to supervise participants during the agricultural off-season in activities such as soil conservation, rehabilitation of small infrastructure, and sanitation projects. Wages will be set at about US$2.2 per day—slightly below the market wage—to discourage participation of better-off households and reach those who need temporary income support through cash for work.

“This project has been designed in collaboration with the government on the basis of years of World Bank -supported analysis of Niger’s particular challenges,” said Carlo del Ninno, Senior Economist with the World Bank ’s Africa Region. “This analysis suggests that cash transfers to poor people for at least 18 months have a positive impact; and that essential family practices campaigns do improve overall family health and children’s nutritional status.”

The new financing is in the form of a credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank ’s fund for the poorest, under standard IDA terms.

Source : The Financial

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