Community Outreach – Key Messages and FAQs
COVID-19 in Fiji
- In Fiji, there have been more than 43,500 Covid 19 Cases, which is significant for a small island nation of 900,000 people.
- Save the Children has worked hard to help poor and vulnerable families in Fiji since 1972, this program will build on that to help those hit by COVID-19.
- We are working with our local partners (Save the Children) to help 39,000 households through this program, that’s around 4% of the population in Fiji.
- Our major implementation partner is the Fiji Council of Social Services and Medical Service Pacific but we are also coordinating with a range of local and international NGOs, including Vinaka Fiji Trust Fund, Rainbow Pride Foundation, ADRA, Fiji Disabled People’s Organization, the Pacific Disability Forum and social welfare at divisional level.
- Our program is designed to complement to the existing coping strategies of people in our community who are really suffering from socio-economic impact of COVID-19 particularly those vulnerable and marginalized group.
- In the first phase, we had coordinated with the Government of Fiji through the Cash working group, which includes the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Department of Social Welfare to figure out how to find the people who need our help the most and the best way to help them. We have also put this project to the National Disaster Management Organization for full endorsement.
- For this extension, it was decided that we provide FJD200 ever two months for a six-month period (three transfers in total) for 39,000 people and their households – they will receive their funding through the Vodafone Mpaisa system and now the My Digicel cash transfer system.
- We are providing cash assistance, so that household can use the money how they feel best, to address their highest priorities.
- We will work with household to help them decide on how to use the funding, but we will give them the respect and dignity to make the final decision as a family.
- We expect cash assistance will also help the whole community, by lifting families from a crisis and helping them have funds to spend through their local economies and reduce their reliance on others.
- Save the Children wants to ensure that this cash program has every chance of helping Fijian families in this crisis.
- We recognize that providing cash alone will not help many families who are facing ongoing poverty, a crisis or who are vulnerable in some other way.
- We also recognise that many families and people who need help are not always visible and it is often hard for people from outside that community to find those who really need our help.
- For this reason, we are working with Fijian NGOs, in particular the Fiji Council of Social Services, to work with the people and communities who already know and trust them – they will help us find those who need our help the most and support us in following up families as they receive assistance to ensure that things are going smoothly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does the program entail?
In this program, we will work with local NGOs to help us identify vulnerable people who have been impacted by COVID-19. We will then work through a survey with them to make sure they meet the selection criteria for the project. This will help us make sure that those who most need our help get the assistance. We will help our partners to register with Vodafone Mpaisa or My Cash with Digicel and they will receive their assistance through this system.
Who will be selected and why?
We recognise that many people in Fiji have been impacted by COVID-19, but we have only a limited amount of funding to support. We will continue to support the 17,000 existing households who will face significant hardship over the next 6-12 months. Already, these existing 17,000 households should have received a text message informing them of the extension of the cash support.
We are being careful to make sure that we try to find those who need our help the most in this extension. To do this, we are working with Fijian NGOs to identify communities where support is likely to be needed and undertake surveys to document potential cases for the program. These are carefully assessed and reviewed to ensure that the funding reaches those most in need. We are using these surveys to look at the impact of the pandemic on a household’s income, and how the purchasing of food, health needs, education and shelter have been affected. We are also trying to identify people who are not already receiving support from elsewhere and make sure we help people in vulnerable and marginalized groups who are often missed when such programs are offered to communities.
Why are you giving people cash – I thought this was a bad practice?
Cash transfers gives freedom to households who understand better than anyone their own families’ needs. Cash transfers also helps families to buy locally which in turn helps local retailers and producers and boosts local markets, thanks to the extra demand. Also, cash transfers are cost effective for humanitarian support as we avoid the costs of buying, storing and shipping goods to areas affected by disasters.
In the past, NGOs like Save the Children have traditionally distributed goods in Fiji after an emergency. Things like food, blankets, and shelter kits as part of their emergency response. When we looked at how the things we distribute were used after a disaster, we found that many families would choose to sell or trade these items to be able to purchase things that they needed more. Often, items would be sold at very low prices, in many cases far less than the normal price. This is not the best use of the money from our donors and it is also bad for the local economy. We want to try using cash in this program to give beneficiaries the freedom and dignity to decide how to best use these funds to meet their family’s needs and priorities.
Why are you using Mobile Money?
Cash transfer is also a way to promote financial inclusion – this means helping people open bank accounts or having access to other financial services. Using mobile money is a simple way for people to keep and use their money safely. They can make cashless payments at shops, pay bills and transfer the money. They can also withdraw the money as cash, if they chose.
Many people who will be receiving payments will have never had the means to open bank accounts, which in turn has meant they are carrying their cash with them or keeping it at home, exposing them to risks of safety, protection and exploitation. This will help them to have safer alternatives for them to use in the future.
What about people who don’t have Mpaisa, My Digicel, or Vodafone/Digicel phones or no phone at all?
We have done research in Fiji and found that phone ownership is very high and that even more people have access to a phone. Our research shows that 91% of a survey of 709 beneficiaries (21 December 2020) had mobile phones, of these 84% have Mpaisa; only 9% of people surveyed had no SIM card. The extension of this program has also shown the viability of this process through this program. For those without Vodafone/Digicel phones, we can provide access to the funds via a mobile wallet with a unique PIN number to ensure security. For those without phones, our teams will work with them to help them access their funds in an appropriate way through the assistance of someone they trust or a Vodafone/Digicel agent as done in the first phase of the project.
What about people who have an impairment or can’t leave the house to access or use Mobile Money?
For people who have difficulties that mean it will be difficult for them to access their MPaisa funds, we will work with them to help them access their funds in an appropriate way through the assistance of someone they trust or a Vodafone agent – 5% of our existing beneficiaries are people with disabilities and we will continue to support them in the next 6-12 months.
How do you know that people will spend the money on things that will actually help them? (Won’t they just spend the money on booze, cigarettes, drugs etc…)
While cash assistance is relatively new in the Pacific, aid agencies have been using cash to help people for decades all over the world. We have carefully looked at these programs and from our post distribution monitoring in the first phase we found that major spending for all genders was around food, cleaning items and education. With the assumption that there is no major increase in inflation and/or the cost of basic goods and services, particularly food; 47% spend their funds on basic needs, 38% on what is considered as basic essential services and 15% on non-essential items like cleaning items, capital for businesses and hire purchases payment. One of the benefits of cash is that it affords people a dignified way to help themselves, and Save the Children is happy to allow families to choose what they need themselves. We need to be respectful of this choice and trust that the communities we work with will generally make the best decisions about what will help them and their families.
Who is funding this project?
This project is funded by a number of generous donors, all of whom are interested in supporting families experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. All of our donors approached Save the Children as they understood that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis but also impacting families and their access to income, education and basic services, and understand cash transfer as a cost-effective way to support families.
How did Save the Children decide how much money to give people?
When we tried to decide how much cash to provide, we wanted to make a balance between what a family needs to meet their basic needs, like food and shelter and making sure we do not upset the systems already in place in Fiji. Especially the support from Social Welfare. So, we worked with a number of different Government of Fiji, UN and NGO partners through the Cash Working Group to decide on an amount that fits with the work they already do in their poverty alleviation scheme, protection scheme, elderly people’s allowance and disability allowance. We also tried to make sure that what we provide is consistent with what other NGOs are doing in other parts of the country, so we do not cause tension between agencies, within or across communities or create market fluctuations by taking in appropriate approaches.
In addition, Save the Children has also conducted market assessments to ensure there is adequate supply of goods and service needed to help families struggling through this crisis and that the funds provided will be useful to families in crisis. This report will be shared with government and partners through the national cash working group. The transfer value per household per month is FJD 200
(3-month cash transfer)
If some people are getting cash and others don’t receive anything, wouldn’t the program risk create disharmony in the community?
Save the Children has been working with local communities and local government officials from the very beginning of this project. Together with our partners we will continue to work together to communicate to village leaders, community leaders and local authorities to ensure the project is understood and accepted at a community level. In order to be eligible for Save the Children’s cash assistance program, households cannot be existing beneficiaries of any other assistance program, including social protection or welfare program- that we have made sure is communicated at the first phase of the project.
How many people are receiving money?
Overall target is 39,000 households. The 17000 existing beneficiaries will continue receiving the cash transfer. Around 22,000 households we will work with our partners to identify using via the selection criteria to receive the cash assistance.
How much money will they receive?
Each household selected for the payments will receive three payments of $200 FJD within the course of three months.
Who is Save the Children Fiji?
Save the Children has been creating sustainable and lasting change in the lives of children in Fiji for more than 40 years. As a Child Rights Organisation, we work to ensure children can realise their rights, particularly those children who are in the most vulnerable and marginalised environments. We work from ground level to policy level and we work directly with children through our child-led initiative Kids Link Fiji and through our Disaster Risk Reduction Child Clubs.
Save the Children Fiji works to create long lasting, sustainable change in the lives of children in Fiji by driving change from the community level to government and policy. We work directly in informal settlements and Villages across the Northern, Western and Central Divisions of the country and we focus on national advocacy work to ensure the rights of children are broadly promoted.