JUBA, May 12, 2021—After Maria Kiden lost her husband several months ago, her life was turned upside down. Suddenly, this pregnant wife and mother became a widow, and the sole breadwinner and caretaker of her family, causing significant financial hardship.
But today, Kiden, 35, is beaming with happiness. Through the World Bank-funded South Sudan Safety Net Project (SSSNP), she received her first quarterly cash payment $121.50 (roughly 65,000 South Sudanese Pounds) to help her take care of her family.
“Now that I have this money, half of my financial burden has been lifted,” Kiden said. “Before, I was forced to borrow to buy food, charcoal and soap. I can now stock maize, beans and cooking oil. My children are sick, and I can pay their medical bills.”
There are many vulnerable households in South Sudan like Kiden’s, citizens who are living at the edge of extreme poverty unable to pay for their daily meals, school fees and medical bills due to disruption of livelihoods, rising inflation and food insecurity. Millions of South Sudanese have been struggling to cope with the effects of recurrent economic and environmental shocks of COVID-19 (coronavirus), floods, locusts, and sporadic local conflict, and hundreds of thousands of vulnerable South Sudanese are at risk of hunger, diseases and poverty this fiscal year, according to United Nations’ reports. The SSSNP aims to protect the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people, such as Kiden, and provide them with reliable access to income opportunities and temporary employment.
“The SSSNP is critical to address economic vulnerabilities in South Sudan and the cash distribution is expected to make a real contribution towards strengthening the resilience and supporting the livelihoods of the neediest and most deserving, with a particular focus on women’s empowerment,” said Husam Abudagga, World Bank Country Manager for South Sudan. “The project is one of our flagship interventions through which we are uniquely positioned to strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus as well as the foundational building blocks of the safety net system in South Sudan.”
Implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in partnership with the government, the SSSNP started cash payments in March to nearly 100,000 vulnerable people in 15,500 households Juba. So far, about $3.8 million has been transferred to beneficiaries. The cash payments, which will be provided for nine months to selected eligible households, will be extended to cover a total of 10 counties across the country, with the goal to reach some 430,000 poor and vulnerable individuals in 65,000 households .
Kelida Wilson, 70, said she has had her share of loss and hardship, having to take care of her grandchildren at her age.
“Now COVID has made things worse for me with the schools closing, adding to my daily burden,” she said. “The cash assistance through the SSSNP is a godsend relief for me as I will be able to provide for my grandchildren, repair my home before the rainy season starts, and finally pay for my medical treatment.”
The SSSNP is also providing basic knowledge in financial literacy, as well as WASH, nutrition and early childhood development, to beneficiary households. This is empowering vulnerable women to better manage their cash to improve their lives and their household’s welfare. Today, the likes of Kelida Wilson have the knowledge, thanks to the project, on how to budget, save, and invest some of the cash assistance in small income generating activities such as selling vegetables or mandazis in the neighbourhood, so that she is better prepared in times of needs in the future.
“As South Sudan moves towards consolidating peace and stability, the support through the SSSNP will go a long way towards establishing effective, transparent, and accountable national safety net delivery systems that invest in longer term human capital resilience. This has been possible through a vibrant collaboration between the World Bank, UNOPS and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. Through this operation, we’re planting the seeds of hope for a better future of the poor and vulnerable,” said Robert Chase, World Bank Practice Manager of Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice.