As part of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) response to support communities deeply impacted by COVID-19, UNDP Nigeria in collaboration with the Ebonyi State Government, have launched an unconditional cash transfer project funded by UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA). With a total sum of N 190,844,500 million (equivalent to US $495,000), the project will help to cushion the socio-economic impact caused by the pandemic and strengthen resilience among selected vulnerable communities in Ebonyi State.
With over 1,055 recorded cases as of 19 November 2020, more than 50 per cent of the Ebonyi State population live below the poverty line. In vulnerable communities across the state’s 13 LGAs, 11,500 households will benefit from the Unconditional Cash Transfer project, while an additional 2,082 micro and small to medium-sized (MSMEs) enterprises will receive cash grants for their businesses and start-ups. The project in particular targets youth whose businesses and start-ups have been affected by the pandemic with the key objective of enhancing their wellbeing through livelihood support and business continuity.
The Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, represented by the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Business Development, Dr. Steve Odo, commended the gesture by the UNDP and restated the government’s commitment to bringing succour to the people affected by the pandemic in the state. He said “We appreciate the support from the UNDP in complementing the efforts of our people in building resilient communities in the face of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to rely on you as our technical partners in socio-economic development and look forward to productive partnerships for the betterment of our people.”
Speaking about the project, the UNDP Nigeria, Resident Representative, Mohamed Yahya stated that “UNDP’s effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has been to support an integrated health systems response to reduce community transmission, as well as through the implementation of socio-economic support to vulnerable communities in key hotspot locations that are deeply impacted by the pandemic.
Yahya, who was represented by UNDP Nigeria, Human Rights and Peace-building Advisor, Simon Ridley, added that “Through this Cash Transfer Project, UNDP Nigeria will support selected vulnerable communities affected by the impact of COVID-19 to minimize the effects of job loss and livelihoods. The project activities will involve the provision of direct unconditional cash transfers to deserving target beneficiaries in urban poor and rural communities as well as cash grants to MSMEs.”
The adverse implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s vulnerable population in a complex development setting calls for concerted action to simultaneously mitigate the health and socio-economic implications. Far from just a health issue, the pandemic has simultaneously activated and intensified multiple crises. In addition to the haunting numbers of infections and case fatalities, the pandemic has bought with it an unprecedented human development crisis. For the first time since its introduction in 1990, the Human Development Index is expected to decline globally. Unemployment is rising, especially in the informal sector with many expected to lose their jobs temporarily.
The Unconditional Cash Transfer project was also recently launched in Lagos and Kano with a total sum of N885.5 million (equivalent to US $2.3 million) and N 2.95 billion (equivalent to US $7,700,000 million) respectively, with significant funding received from the Government of Japan and the European Union (EU).