5 minute inspiration: How mobile cash transfers helped Malians when COVID-19 hit

by 29th Jan 2021
5 minute inspiration: How mobile cash transfers helped Malians when COVID-19 hit

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Mali, most families CARE works with that had been eating three meals a day suddenly had to drop to eating only once a day. The combination of markets closing, quarantine measures, and falling incomes meant that people had to conserve food carefully. Six months later, most of those families are eating three meals a day again. Why? Because local communities mobilised to share information, and worked with CARE to distribute cash transfers to the families most in need.

With funding from UK Aid between May and October, 2020, the team worked with 7,295 people directly and 267,053 people indirectly. The team worked with YAGTU, SAHEL ECO, and local health centres as partners to quickly reach the most people possible.

How did it happen?

Use cash and vouchers

The project set up cash transfers for families using mobile phones and mobile money. They also set up vouchers for specific products families needed. 61% of people were satisfied with cash transfers.

Listen to what communities want

The teams set up multiple ways for individuals to give feedback – through community complaint desks, hotlines, working with local groups like savings groups, and through health centres – so that they could stay in touch with what worked and what didn’t. It’s not enough to collect feedback, we also have to respond to it. 76% of people said they got satisfactory responses to their issues.

Think about how people get information

The project supported savings groups to share information, which meant 21% of people were getting their information about COVID-19 and the assistance programme through their local group. Community committees and savings groups also set up community meetings on the importance of addressing gender-based violence.

Support digital access

For families who didn’t have any access to mobile phones, the project gave them a mobile phone so they could access cash transfers and information. In some places, that means families were 30% more likely to have access to phones.

Use in-kind distribution when appropriate

The project worked with health centres to distribute hygiene kits. They also helped rebuild water points so everyone could get enough water to wash their hands regularly.

What changed?

People have more food

People are three times more likely to have enough food, and three times more likely to be eating three meals a day – nearly back to the levels they had before COVID-19.

People feel more dignified

73% of people in the project said that this helped them improve their dignity.

More people are washing their hands and using clean water

13% more people have clean drinking water, and they are three times more likely to have handwashing equipment at home.

Conflicts and violence are going down

58% of women and girls say that gender-based violence is going down. The number of people who report witnessing physical violence has been cut in half. People also report that they are 75% less likely to have arguments over water.

People have more constructive ways to cope

People are nearly three times (2.8 times) more likely to cope without having to put their futures at risk. For example, they are 29% less likely to take out loans, and less likely to skip meals.

People have more access to information

People are 18% more likely to know how to protect themselves from COVID-19. They are also three times more likely to know about gender-based violence and how to prevent it, and 43% more likely to know about contraception.

Want to learn more?

Check out the project evaluation (in French).

Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Email: ejanoch@care.org