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Cash Transfer for Protection of Blanket Feeding: Maradi and Tahoua regions

March 2011 — By UNICEF Emergency Project

The Project ‘Cash Transfer to Protect Blanket Feeding’ in Niger was launched by UNICEF in June 2010. The Project was a direct response to the growing evidence that blanket supplementary feeding rations distributed to children of 6 to 23 months of age in food insecure communities were consumed by older children as well and in many cases all household members. The effectiveness of the blanket feeding to reduce the extremely high acute malnutrition among young children was thus challenged.

To ensure a quick response and recognizing that markets were well functioning in Niger, the Cash Transfer modality was chosen as the best intervention mechanism to protect the blanket feeding in communities located at a maximum distance of 10 kilometers to the nearest food market. The Project complements other projects distributing protection rations in communities with no immediate market access. The size of the protection rations were determined to cover the food needs of an average household identified as 7 persons. To provide consistency between the different protection interventions, the amount of cash to be transferred to households receiving blanket feeding was determined at 20,000 FCFA per month corresponding to the value of the protection rations.

The direct objective of the Project was to ensure proper use of blanket feeding and the outcome was that 32,000 households with at least one child younger than 2 years would use the blanket feeding for the targeted children. Considering the concern for the very young children, cash was also transferred to pregnant and breastfeeding women in the same communities.

The Project has had a positive impact on the protection of Blanket Feeding and the cash transfer modality allowed a swift response to the food security emergency. In summary, the Project has contributed to the right food to the right people at the right time; i.e. that the needs of children under two and pregnant and breastfeeding women, or the ‘1,000 day challenge’ are met.

Critical for the success of the Project has been the partnership of organizations with substantive technical and local experience whether national institutions such as DNPGSA, SIMA, or INS, INGOs such as CARE and SC, or UN agencies, particularly UNICEF and WFP. Moreover, the partnership builds on trust among the different partners from ongoing collaboration.

The Project has had positive impact on the understanding of cash transfer as an implementation tool to complement other response mechanisms to food insecurity. However, there are still no clear agreements of what skills and capacity is need to participate effectively in cash operations. This challenge is not unique for this Emergency Cash Transfer Project but corresponds to a general concern about the lack of guidelines that can be applied in multi-stakeholder emergency cash transfer projects, which seeks to strengthen national capacity.