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The evolution of the Government of Kenya cash transfer programme for vulnerable children between 2002 to 2006 and prospects for nationwide scale-up

R. Pearson and C. Alviar1


SARPN acknowledges Alfred Hamadziripi as the source of this document.
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Transfers of resources from the better-off to the poorest members of society have been a feature of human organisation for millennia. Transfers have taken many forms, a place to stay, food, clothing, a health service, a place in a school, and often cash. One can group elements of society that take responsibility for social protection (or welfare) into five2; markets, families, social networks, membership institutions, and public authorities.

Kenya is a country of 32 million people. After a period of stagnation the economy is once again relatively robust growing at a pace faster than population growth. The gini coefficient is one of the highest in Africa and over half of Kenyans live on less than a dollar a day. Over $7 billion were collected in taxes in 2005. Social transfers from the state to the very poorest are a major feature of the Kenyan State’s spending.

The ultra poor in Kenya are from two groups. First, people from poor families living in arid areas where the economy revolves around pastoralism; the ultra poor in arid districts are not in possession of an economically viable number of animals and do not have any other economic assets. Secondly, people from poor families who have been particularly affected by HIV/AIDS often to the extent that both parents have died leaving orphans in the care of grandparents or faring for themselves. While the first group has been the subject of major social protection programme for many years managed by the Office of the President including free food hand outs, support especially for health programmes, by the turn of the millennium the second group was not the particular focus of any coherent programme of national scope. The issue became the subject of debate in the course of the parliamentary elections towards the end of 2002.

This paper tells the story of how the Children’s Department in the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of Kenya came to be managing by 2006 a cash transfer programme in 17 districts with the aim of scaling the programme up to touch 300,000 of the most vulnerable children in Kenya by 2011.

  1. The cash transfer programme in Kenya has evolved through the team work of many persons from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Kenya, World Bank, Dfid and UNICEF with major financial support provided by the Kenyan Taxpayer, Sida Kenya through a thematic funding grant to the UNICEF programme for Child Protection and HIV/AIDS, core UNICEF resources and a DfID grant to UNICEF.
  2. De Neubourg, C. Modernising the social protection system – theoretical issues. Maastricht School of Governance lecture notes.

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