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In the World

How $13 Changes Lives

Outreach reviewed: Stipends help poor families in Malawi

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Click above to watch Candace Miller, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health, explain the Malawi Cash Transfer.

Small world, big needs. One steady focus at BU Today is sharing stories about outreach, human to human and program to program, and ways members of this University community extend that concept, crossing barriers (physical and otherwise) to offer hands-on help, advice, and wisdom. This week, we’re returning to some of those inspirational accounts.

The country of Malawi is one of the poorest in the world — unemployment is high, HIV prevalence is about 14 percent, and for many people, food is scarce. But a government assistance program is making strides in reducing poverty with only $13 a month per household.

The Malawi Cash Transfer is a social welfare program run by the government of Malawi, with technical support from UNICEF, and financed by the Global Fund, an organization set up to finance the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Through the program, families considered labor-restrained — meaning the head of household is elderly, an adult who is ill, or a child — receive about $13 per month. The money goes a long way: families are buying food and medicine, children are going to school, and some people have even started their own small businesses.

In collaboration with the University of Malawi’s Centre for Social Research, and with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and UNICEF, Boston University’s Center for International Health and Development (CIHD) has implemented an external evaluation that measures the impact of the cash on households receiving it and assesses how the system is working and where it can improve.

Candace Miller, an assistant professor at the CIHD and the department of international health at the School of Public Health, is the principal investigator for the external evaluation and has been working with local staff from the Centre for Social Research to interview families for the study. “Looking at these issues is very important,” Miller says. “It helps the government of Malawi decide whether this is the way to alleviate poverty and if this should be adopted as part of national policy.”

Click here for full reports on the Malawi Cash Transfer.

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

This story originally ran September 18, 2008.

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