Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Govt, LIFT Fund Announce Extra Cash Payments to Help Most Vulnerable During COVID-19

By Nyein Nyein 27 May 2020

The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, with financial support from the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT), will provide an extra one-time cash payment of 30,000 kyats (US$21.36) each to 441,726 women and elderly people in five most vulnerable areas of Myanmar starting next week.

The $9-million fund aims to help pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and elderly people in four states and the Naga Self-Administered Zone (SAZ) to access food and health care during the COVID-19 pandemic period, said Daw San San Aye, the director-general of the DSW.

The support, in the form of one-time cash transfers, will be delivered to 241,425 people, including mothers of children under the age of 2 and pregnant women in Karen, Kayah, Chin and Rakhine states and the Naga SAZ in Sagaing Region, who are already receiving regular support under the DSW’s Maternal and Child Cash Transfer (MCCT) program.

The support will also go to 200,301 people over the age of 85 who are beneficiaries of the DSW’s nationwide Social Pension Program.

The two DSW programs were initiated in fiscal year 2017-18. Beneficiaries receive regular monthly support of 15,000 kyats under the MCCT program, supported by LIFT, and 10,000 kyats under the government’s Social Pension Program.

LIFT director Katy Webley said this particular cash transfer was “aimed at preventing the spread of COVID, providing for the safety of this vulnerable group and helping lift the community.”

She added that the social protection strategy, which is aimed at supporting those who are economically and socially vulnerable and helping to prevent their exclusion, helps not only families, but also communities and the country as a whole.

Daw San San Aye said the beneficiaries, who are vulnerable even in normal times, may currently be experiencing special difficulties accessing basic items. “We decided to provide the support through the existing programs to quickly respond to this need, which is what the rapid response social protection program is designed to do,” she said, explaining why the fund does not cover the whole country. But the support covers every community including internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Chin, Rakhine and Karen states, she added.

Daw San San Aye told The Irrawaddy via a video press conference on Wednesday that besides the MCCT program’s operation area in Chin, Rakhine, Karen, Kayah and the Naga SAZ, the one-time COVID-19 cash transfers would be sent to pregnant women and lactating mothers in IDP camps in Kachin and northern Shan states. Nearly 3,500 women in Kachin and northern Shan’s IDP camps will receive the government’s originally budgeted funds.

The director general added that the additional cash assistance in this COVID-19 period would be handed out in the first and second weeks of June.

Besides the cash support, the director general said beneficiaries would also receive leaflets and posters to boost health awareness.

She said township administrative officials and the DSW would work together to distribute the cash, while the respective parliamentarians, volunteer groups and NGOs would monitor the distribution “to show accountability.”

The cash support will help ease the direct impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on 400,000 people and the indirect impacts on nearly 2 million people across the country, organizers said.

Daw San San Aye added that Myanmar’s vision for social protection calls for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable system that facilitates access to essential social services, protects people from risks and shocks, addresses economic and social vulnerabilities and food insecurity, promotes economic opportunities and alleviates social exclusion, as per the government’s National Social Protection Strategic Plan of 2014.

As outlined in Goal 4 of the Government’s COVID-19 Coordinated Economic Relief Plan to ease the impact on households, Webley added, “in this time of uncertainty with perhaps reduced employment and [increased] health needs, putting cash in the hands of people across the country is the best way to help them prepare for the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.”

LIFT is supported by donors in the United Kingdom, the European Union, Switzerland, Australia, the United States, Canada and Ireland. It announced an overall COVID-19 assistance package worth $15.8 million in April, which is expected to benefit an estimated 5.9 million people in Myanmar.

LIFT will continue to be a partner working to support the government and those in nongovernment areas to improve nutrition, including through the MCCT, Webley told The Irrawaddy.

You may also like these stories:

Govt to Provide Aid to Displaced Persons

Myanmar’s Central Bank Says Banking Will Continue Despite Coronavirus