What are social cash transfers? How do they help in a global pandemic? This blog explains why we're using social transfers to support excluded people during lockdown.

COVID-19 has really affected my income flow. I owned a student [video] gaming business near one of the universities in Nairobi, but when schools were closed due to government restrictions I had to close down my business. It has been for five months now.

Since the global pandemic sent countries into lockdown, our teams have been hearing lots of stories like Assumpta’s from across our Motivation community. Small business owners have seen their incomes completely disappear.

For disabled people, that can mean it’s impossible to buy basic health items needed to stay well and safe. For example, people with spinal cord injuries prevent pressure ulcers by using sanitary items, like continence pads, that keep them dry. It’s not just important for dignity, but ensures skin stays healthy.

Adult diapers [incontinence pads] are part of the things I need to buy. Without them, you risk getting sores as a result of wetting on yourself. But they are quite expensive. More so during this time of Covid-19 when many suppliers have been affected.

We knew that we had to do something to support people like Assumpta to access these vital products. Connecting with other services that were providing soap and sanitisers wasn’t going to work – they just didn’t have capacity to source and supply pads or catheters.

It quickly became clear that Assumpta – and many disabled people like her – were being left behind.

So how could we make sure that she could buy the products she needed every day?

Introducing social cash transfers

We’ve previously used mobile cash transfers to pay expenses and allowance to our Peer Trainers in Africa. We wondered if this could be the answer.

Social transfers are easy to track and monitor, plus they go directly to the person we’re supporting. By using careful, ethical selection criteria, our teams could direct donations to the most vulnerable people who needed immediate support to survive the impacts of Covid-19.

Thanks to our amazing supporters, we’ve been able to start these social transfers in Kenya and we’re getting set up in Malawi too. For Assumpta, and many others in the Motivation community, the impact is immediate.

The donation I got from Motivation helped me to buy pads for one month.

A woman dressed in pink smiles and holds up a pack of diapers bought with her social cash transfer

Now I know that I won’t have to worry about diapers and thus to me it is a big relief. It has been my worry on how to go out anywhere [without diapers], but now I am happy because through this support, I will not worry that much.

Thank you so much Motivation supporters for lending a helping hand during this tough time.


How do social cash transfers work?

  • Families with an immediate need are identified. Only those we have worked with previously and have spoken with on the phone during lockdown are eligible.
  • Eligible families detail what they will purchase with the funds. Most highlight the need to buy food and sanitary items.
  • Established and secure mobile cash apps are used to transfer funds. These include checks, such as identification verification, and tracking that ensure payments reach the right people and are not subject to fraud or corruption.
  • Families are contacted to find out how the funds have been used.

What are the benefits of social cash transfers?

  • Provide direct and immediate support, particularly in emergency situations
  • Allow people the autonomy to meet their own specific health needs.
  • Empower people, especially women (e.g. mothers of children with cerebral palsy), who might not otherwise be able to make spending decisions. 
  • Ensure that money goes back into the local economy and supports small businesses.
  • Proven as a safe and effective way to provide support, which is approved and verified by the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.