Equity has begun the disbursement of cash transfers to vulnerable households in four Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties in the third phase of the Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP).

The Government of Kenya through the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) handed over a cheque of KSh558 million to Equity for onward disbursement to vulnerable families in Wajir, Marsabit, Mandera and Turkana Counties.

In an event chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and the ASALs Hon Eugene Wamalwa, members of parliament from Isiolo and Samburu Counties were taken through the HSNP programme as the Government brings on four more counties into the HSNP programme which began in 2009.

Isiolo, Samburu, Tana River and Garissa Counties join Wajir, Marsabit, Mandera and Turkana Counties in phase 3 of the programme.

Speaking while handing over the cheque, Hon Wamalwa said 10 counties in the country are currently facing drought. “Through partners like Equity, we are enhancing efficiency and this HSNP money will reach these vulnerable families with immediate effect to cushion them against the effects of drought.”

The CS said Government had expanded HSNP to 4 more counties in response to the needs of households in ASAL areas. “While HSNP began as a purely donor funded programme in Phase 1, the Government funded 65% in Phase 2 and we are happy to announce that the initiative is now fully funded by Government,” he said.

The first phase of HSNP targeted 68,621 households in the four counties between 2009 and 2013 while Phase 2 targeted 101,800 vulnerable households for regular payments and 273,006 households for emergency payments.

Phase 3 will cater for an additional 200,000 households in the four initial counties while targeting 32,000 households for regular payments and 200,000 for emergency payments in the four additional ASAL counties. Each household receives KSh5,400 every two months in the HSNP regular cash transfers.

Receiving the cheque on behalf of Equity, General Manager Special Projects Saralyn Wairimu said Equity has been disbursing HSNP funds since 2009 and will deploy its wide network of branches and agencies in the ASAL regions to implement Phase 3 disbursements.

“This programme is a demonstration of our commitment to inclusivity and democratization of access to financial services. We have 17 branches and 1,008 Equity agents in the eight HSNP target counties that are focused on serving the beneficiaries within the COVID-19 safety protocols,” she explained.

Saralyn further said HSNP beneficiaries are taken through basic financial literacy training to resource them with the knowledge, skills and tools that enable them effectively manage their finances. Beneficiaries are provided with special smart cards with biometric authentication capability to ensure security of funds and zero leakages, and so that the stipend reaches the intended beneficiaries.

“We open fully fledged bank accounts for each of the recipients and this ensures they enjoy dignity and self-esteem as well as choice on where, when and how to access the funds, whether through the branch, ATM or agency. Cash transfers, as opposed to in-kind support, enables beneficiaries allocate the stipend to their most pressing needs,” she said.

The safety net programme HSNP is one of four cash transfer programmes under the National Safety Net Programme (NSNP) collectively called Inua Jamii. The other three are: Older Persons Cash Transfer, Cash Transfers for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Persons with Severe Disability Cash Transfer.

Equity Bank is a Payment Service Provider for the above programs currently serving 450,000 beneficiaries across the 47 counties in Kenya. Beneficiaries receive KSh4,000 every two months in the HSNP regular cash transfers.