WASHINGTON, January 29, 2014 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved support to the Republic of Congo to help build the foundation of a national safety net system and to pilot a cash transfer program to improve access to health and education services of poorest households in participating areas. The pilot cash transfer will cover 5,000 poor households and about 1,000 poor elderly.
The LISUNGI Safety Nets Project will add an IDA* credit of US$2 million to the project in which the Government is putting $15 million. The IDA funds will be used to set up a registry of targeted potential beneficiaries and a management information system, as well as to regularly provide cash transfer to households living below the food poverty line in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire, and Cuvette during the first phase of the government’s long-term plan to cut poverty.
“The LISUNGI project will allow thousands of women, children and elderly amongst the poorest to have access to a minimum transfer which will enable them to insure the most urgent basic needs, particularly Health and education. It is also a second opportunity that is given to them to get out of poverty and mostly to break the cross generational poverty transfer cycle,” said Sylvie Dossou, World Bank Country Manager for the Republic of Congo.
Beneficiary households with young children will receive the money provided that their children attend school and receive regular health check-ups. This arrangement will help ensure that households keep up schooling and healthcare for children during hard times, giving them a stronger chance to break out of poverty as adults.
The project is expected to pave the way for better human development indicators at the national level. Despite relatively high national income, over a third of the population has not completed primary school. Many children from poor households drop out of school as their families cannot afford transport, uniforms, and textbooks.
On the health front, the project will help the poorest families gain access to important services such as immunization and regular growth monitoring. In urban areas, only half of all children below the age of two have received all the vaccinations they need, and the rate is even lower in rural areas (at 40 percent).
“While the cash transfer pilot will be rolled out in just three departments during the first phase, the government’s intention is to scale it up eventually to cover 25 percent of the population,” said Phillippe Leite, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “In the long run, such a nationwide program would be both affordable and sustainable in the Republic of Congo, and could bring down poverty rates by 20 to 40 percent.”
Similar programs have helped reduce poverty in Brazil and Mexico, and are being established or consolidated in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, Tanzania announced the nationwide scale-up of its conditional cash transfer program, with support from the World Bank and other partners.
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing zero-interest loans and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 82 poorest countries, 40 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $16 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa
 LISUNGI means Support/Assistance in Lingala.