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JCTR hails COVID-19 emergency SCT programme

THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) says the COVID-19 Emergency Social Cash Transfer programme is a positive move as far as providing relief and support to some households is concerned.

Meanwhile, the Medical for Quality Healthcare in Zambia has urged the government to make sure COVID-19 testing kits are made available in health facilities for mass testing in order for the country to ably combat the virus.

JCTR welcomed the government’s move to launch the emergency cash transfer aimed at cushioning negative economic effects of COVID-19 on households.

Executive director Fr Alex Muyebe said this was a positive intervention particularly because it aims to cushion the suffering of the vulnerable and marginalised people in society who have been affected and left helpless by the pandemic.

Fr Muyebe said one notable negative effect of the pandemic had been the disruptions of livelihoods.

“Therefore, timely, responsive, effective and efficient social protection systems remain crucial to safeguarding the poor and vulnerable in Zambia,” he said.

He said the government emergency support would be in form of cash transfers and food packs and is not under the regular social cash transfer programme but a temporary social safety net that has been introduced to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 on vulnerable households.

Fr Muyebe said according to the Ministry of Community Development, a transfer value of K400 per month shall be given to beneficiaries who are already in the database for a period of six months to enable them buy nutritious foods and other basic essentials.

“JCTR, as an institution that advocates for better living standards of the vulnerable in our society, is of the view that even though not all the vulnerable persons will be able to receive the emergency support due to limited resources, the COVID-19 Emergency Social Cash Transfer programme is a positive move as far as providing relief and support to some households is concerned,” he said.

“The intervention is also likely to have a positive effect on nutrition amongst other positive trickle-down effects for those that will receive the assistance.”

He implored the government, through relevant ministries, to proactively prioritise scaling up and extending such interventions to a wider population.

“This is because some households that may have been well off prior to the pandemic have fallen into the poverty trap. Although these households initially did not qualify as beneficiaries of the emergency cash transfer, the COVID-19 situation caused them to become vulnerable. JCTR, therefore urges government to embrace this category,” he said.

“Furthermore, JCTR would like to caution authorities responsible for the emergency support programme to ensure the cash transfer and the food pack benefits the targeted beneficiaries. Proper accountability and transparency is needed to ensure that the resources are not mismanaged, end up with people who do not deserve support, or worse off be used for individual benefits.”

He said it was imperative that the targeted beneficiaries receive the support, which was provided at great cost by cooperating partners.

“Therefore, efficiency and effective running of the emergency support programme is key,” said Fr Muyebe.

And MQHZ welcomed the announcement by the government that frontline health workers will finally be paid.

“This development has excited us and all frontline health workers in Zambia. At a time when the cases of the virus are surging, these incentives will come at an opportune time. Indeed our hard-working health workers deserve great motivation for their gallant work done so far,” said MQHZ media and advocacy director Francis Kangwa.

“As MQHZ, we hope that these incentives will be handsome and be paid quickly to all those helping to curtail the Coronavirus pandemic. We further encourage government through the Ministry of Health to make sure COVID-19 testing kits are made available in health facilities for mass testing, in order for the country to ably combat the virus.”

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