AIDS Orphans in Kenya

Mitigating the AIDS Burden: Kenya’s Cash Transfer

Reviewed by Isaac Abraham
November 5, 2014

What hope is there for orphaned, impoverished children in sub-Saharan Africa and the resource-stretched extended families that are obliged to adopt them? Tabitha Muchiri suggests a non-conditional cash transfer program that would strategically curb food insecurities. The paper examines, in short, the phenomenon of children who have become orphaned through an HIV-AIDS related death of a parent (a projected population of 17 million worldwide). Although a universal occurrence, the death of a breadwinner in an African household has exacerbated consequences as it entails curbing consumption of quality foods. The direct consequences of such reductions of food quality and quantity are long-term negative effects on cognitive, emotional and physical development in children. In most cases, not only is consumption of quality foods reduced, a reallocation of resources may occur which obligates malnourished orphans to take up laborious duties in order to provide care for their adopted households. Thus a tragic loop persists of struggling orphans becoming over-fatigued in efforts to overcome their lowly predicaments.

These children are, however, not completely doomed as Muchiri examines the effectiveness of cash transfer programs that have alleviated the burdens of poverty across several countries through targeting food insecurities. Through particular case studies, it is shown that “cash transfers smooth household consumption by facilitating the purchase of more and better food thereby raising household labor productivity”. In the case of Kenya specifically, the government procured a macroeconomic strategy to increase human capital (or labor participation) by “alleviating food insecurity, reducing morbidity, increasing school attendance and enrolment for children in fostering households”. In the three phases of the program, the government distributed $17 to 130,000 households beginning from under $6 to only 500 households.

The paper focused on the effect these cash transfers had in the intake of carbohydrates and proteins in each household. Remarkably, the cash transfers increased said intakes by over 20% thus succeeding in “improving the food security of poor households fostering orphan and vulnerable children”. Also remarkable, the same cash transfers helped to “alleviate liquidity constraints thus facilitating investment in productive assets”. Muchiri advocates for cash transfers as a means of social protection. In summation, Muchiri suggests that cash transfers be pegged to inflation in order to protect the purchasing power of the individual–rendering them effective in alleviating any food insecurities.

View the full paper here!

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