By Brima Sannoh in Pujehun
Over 4000 people, mostly women, aged persons and people living with disabilities are receiving cash support in the southern Pujehun District, under the Sierra Leone government’s Social Safety Net programme targeting poor and vulnerable members of the population.
The donor funded initiative is being implemented nationwide by the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), and distribution of the cash started on 16 October, 2023.
This is the third phase of the World Bank funded Emergency Cash Transfer (ECT), an activity that usually lasts for a week. The aim of the initiative is to minimize extreme poverty in the country.
World Bank and government data show that there is high level of poverty in Sierra Leone, with nearly 60% of the people living below the poverty line.
Pujehun is considered as one of the poorest districts in the country, according to government data.
Cash transfers to poor people have been ongoing for a long time in Sierra Leone. But this latest one started during the Covid-19 outbreak, as part of the national social protection response to the pandemic.
The cash was disbursed through the Orange Mobile Money service.
Each beneficiary received a total of NLe2, 609 after charges of NLe51 was deducted, according to the beneficiaries themselves and NaCSA officials.
Among the beneficiaries on was 28-year-old Mariama Kamara, a single mother of two, who traveled all the way from Sumbuya Bessima in the Kpaka Chiefdom of Pujehun to the District headquarters town for her money.
Mariama’s husband divorced her over what she considers as a minor disagreement two years ago. He abandoned her with the kids, whom she now takes care of all by herself.
Mariama is a petty trader who deals in local products like palm oil, garri, pepper, charcoal and peanuts. She lamented that business has not been good due to the small size of her capital.
“I am extremely happy for this kind of support. It is going to go a long way to take care of my children’s school matters,” an excited Mariama told ManoReporters after receiving her cash from NaCSA officials.
She added: “With this money, I am sure of growing my business, which will now address all other needs of mine and my children.”
Joseph Sandy, a physically challenged man from the Yoni amputee camp, one mile away from Pujehun Town in Kpanga Krim Chiefdom, also benefited from the handout.
Mr Sandy lost his right leg during Sierra Leone’s civil war. He makes a living begging in the streets.
“It is over a month now I have not been going out to ask people for help because my health has not been too good, and I have suffered a lot during this time as I did not have any money on me for food and medication. All I will say is that I am grateful,” he said.
“This money came at the right time. I am now going to buy food stuff and pay for my medical treatment and then I will later decide on what next I put the money into that will bring me some benefits,” he added.
Nixon Collier, the District Coordinator of NaCSA for Pujehun, told ManorReporters that the programme is part of fulfilment of the government’s commitment to lift its people out of poverty.
“The feedback we have been getting from the recipients shows that the cash support is helping to minimize the suffering of the people,” he said.