The Inua Jamii has finally embraced as one of the government’s most successful poverty eradication programmes that targets the most vulnerable people after initial scepticism.
The expanded state-funded social assistance programme that also includes the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC), Persons with Severe Disability (PWSD) and Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPTC) has had an impact on poverty and health standards besides nutritional improvement among the beneficiaries.
To date 1.2 million households of socially and economically vulnerable families have benefited from the fund.
Critics and supporters of the programme concur that despite their initial reservations, the programme had exceeded their expectations.
Jesse Karanja, the chairman Nakuru People’s Power lobby, says that owing to deep-seated corruption in government, he feared the money would be stolen by civil servants.
“Our lobby group has monitored many programmes but we are happy that Inua Jamii has been successful. It’s evident in both urban and rural areas that the lives of the elderly persons have improved,’’ he said.
However, he wants the government to increase the amount because of the high cost of living in towns.
“For the elderly persons who live in urban areas, the Sh2,000 per month is too little. For example, the cheapest rental house in Nakuru is Sh1,000, and it’s now practically impossible to live on the balance for a whole month,’’ Karanja explains.
Another beneficiary of the OPTC, Naomi Njeri, says the money is like manna from heaven because she previously depended on casual jobs to survive in Nakuru town. But when she reached 60 years old it became difficult to do laundry work, which earned her Sh200 for a living.
“When the social security people and the chief visited and registered me as a beneficiary of the OPTC, I was sceptical. When the money started to come, I shed tears of joy. I depend on it now,’’ Njeri observes.
However, she urged the government to consider enrolling the unemployed youth to reduce crime. However, Karanja disagrees, saying the youth should utilise their skills and education to be self-employed.
According to Karanja: “The worst mistake the government can make is extending the social security money to the unemployed youth because that might create sluggishness in their attitude towards work.”
Chief John Koskei of Waseges, one of the poorest locations in Nakuru County observes that since the Inua Jamii came into being, elderly persons have become active in barazas, churches and community work.
“In the past, clothes and soap were unheard of but now they have regained confidence and participate and contribute ideas in barazas. They marked Christmas just as other families,’’ said the chief.
Celestine Nafula, a single mother with a severely disabled child, says her child has never walked nor talked because she was born with autistic paralysis. Nafula is grateful that the PWSD money has changed their lives and enabled her to provide improved care of for her child.
Nafula suggests that the money to be disbursed monthly instead of after every two months.
The regional administration and religious leadership in Nakuru support the sentiments expressed by the beneficiaries of Inua Jamii social security programme. The greatest drawback, administrators say, is the cultural stigma that inhibits the target groups such as people with disability from enrolling local security programmes such as Inua Jamii programmes.
According to Joel Atuti, a Nakuru town chief, the stigma towards children with disability is a hindrance to accessing the funds.
“There are times when the money for persons with severe disability is returned to Treasury because some people are not willing to open up about their children’s needs. In some cases, we have had to use the Nyumba Kumi leaders to help us reach such children,’’ said Atuti.
Pastor Philomen Omwega of the One Flock Church says the objective of Inua Jamii programme is noble but still requires improvement. Pastor Omwega expresses optimism that the steps taken by the country will cushion the poor and the vulnerable against extreme poverty.
He urged the Jubilee government to expand the programme by improving the economy and creating jobs so that many people pay taxes. A government that extends a helping hand the weakest members of society, he says, gets blessed abundantly.
The clergyman says the elderly and people with disability need the support of the able-bodied to survive. In his opinion Inua Jamii is an example of how social security programmes supporting the weak to lead normal lives.
The Director of Gender Studies at Egerton University Lilian Chesikaw commends the government for introducing Inua Jamii but urged the department of social protection to hire independent bodies to evaluate and monitor the programme.
She observes, “My major concern is for those vulnerable people who have been left out. That is a double tragedy. In a number of areas there are old persons who have not received the money and yet they are deserving cases. And for the orphaned children without death certificates of their parents, they are left out and everybody knows that they are entitled to it.’’
She urged the government to ensure that all deserving cases including those without proper records are supported because accounts are still an issue in the country. Some communities, she says, do not appreciate the need for death certificates because death is still treated as taboo.
Some people who have adopted the children of their late sisters and brothers fear psychologically isolating them with the orphan tag.
Despite the challenges, Dr Chesikaw said Inua Jamii has brought social security to the country, something which was unimaginable in an African country.
Picture: Chief Joel Atuti addressing a baraza on the Inua Jamii program in Nakuru town.