Tag Archives: Bolsa Familia

Proven and affordable ways to fight poverty and hunger

A recent article in the magazine Newsweek, praises social cash transfers as a way of reducing the gap between rich and poor. The article appears in the Newsweek magazine dated December 7th 2009, and is written by Mac Margolis.

Margolis looks at the example of Brazil which, he says, had already in 2008, met the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. In the process, since 2003, Brazil has lifted 21 million citizens out of poverty.

This is remarkable, considering that in many parts of Africa, not only are we unlikely to meet this Millennium Development Goal, but are actually moving backwards, with levels of poverty increasing.

Margolis talks about a range of measures implemented by the Brazilian government, including economic reforms, and an aggressive drive to get children out of the workplace and into school. This move, which began in the early 1990s, is now paying off, as children from poor families are able to get much better jobs and earn higher pay than they would have without the benefit of education.

But very importantly, Margolis also praises Bolsa Familia, a social cash transfer programme in Brazil, that gives a monthly allowance to poor families, as long as they keep their children in school and regularly visit health facilities.

Margolis says this programme has proved effective in helping the poor, while costing very little — less than half of 1 percent of GDP.

A Costed Programme to End Child Malnutrition

Save the Children recently released a report, outlining a plan of action to fight child hunger. According to Save the Children, the period from conception to a child’s second birthday is crucial for development. If the child is malnourished during this period, she or he will suffer permanent damage.

The guide, called Hungry for Change, outlines a costed, eight-step package for improving the diets of pregnant women, and children under the age of two. The package includes:

  • breastfeeding support and promotion,
  • micronutrient supplementation and deworming,
  • nutrition-friendly agriculture and livestock policies,
  • safety neds and social cash transfers,
  • fortified foods,
  • education on nutrition and hygiene,
  • reducing risk, early warning and response,
  • treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

When it comes to social cash transfers, the report says that such transfers have been shown to have a positive effect on children’s diets. In Swaziland, a six-month cash transfer programme improved dietary diversity in young children, while an emergency cash safety net programme in Niger in 2008 enabled families to buy better quality foods.

It is crucial though, that transfers should reach children early in life – so Save the Children recommends the use of age-criteria when deciding who gets such grants, rather than means testing. Ideally, such cash transfers should be given to women, because when women have more control over family resources, this ensures the greatest impact on child nutrition. The value of transfers should be around one third of household consumption. They should be provided regularly — such as once a month.

Unlike the case of Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, Save the Children caution against attaching conditions such as school or clinic attendance, as in many low-income countries, schools and clinics are few and far between.

So, what is the cost of the eight steps the guide outlines? Save the Children estimate that the package would cost a total of US$127 per year for each child under the age of two, and US$47 for each pregnant woman. This works out at an average of 1.63% of GDP for most of the 8 poor countries focused on in the report.

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