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Cash transfer scheme in Kenya helps reduce risks for orphans and vulnerable children

A new study conducted in Kenya suggests that cash transfer programmes may reduce the likelihood of HIV infection among young people from poor or vulnerable backgrounds.

The Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children scheme is one of the government’s key social protection programmes. It provides poor households with children of 17 years or below with a monthly cash payment of 25 dollars. This cash support reaches around 150,000 households and provides them with greater economic security.

It’s well understood how the extra money helps boost the nutrition and health of vulnerable families, but it also improves the educational prospects for children and orphans. In Kenya, research has shown that enrolment at school among children in households receiving the cash transfer increased by 8%. One 15-year old girl, an orphan who cares for her three siblings, told IRIN that before she received the cash vouchers, she would often skip school “to wash clothes for rich people”. Some of her friends relied on finding ‘boyfriends’ to help them with money, she explained, which was something she had previously considered, but now feels is unnecessary. With the cash vouchers, it is not such a worry about where the next food for her and her siblings will come from.

Taking away the need for youngsters to be economically dependent on others and also by allowing them to stay on in school, could be the key factors in keeping these vulnerable children and orphans from engaging in risky behaviour. For example, the new study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina, found that teenagers aged 11 to 16 were less likely to engage in sexual activity when enrolled on the cash transfer programme and adolescents were 30% more likely to delay having a sexual relationship than those who were not enrolled. This may help protect adolescents from HIV/AIDS infection.

According to the United Nations Children’s agency UNICEF, there are around 2.6 million orphans in the country, nearly half of them left without one or both parents by HIV/AIDS. Speaking to IRIN, the permanent secretary in the Kenyan Ministry of Gender and Children Services explained that orphans and vulnerable children were more exposed to dangers without any economic support. Risks included physical abuse, sexual exploitation, child labour and early marriages. By giving the youngsters more independence through the cash vouchers, the Kenyan authorities hope vulnerable children are less likely to face such risks.

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