Achieving economic growth and social inclusion is possible by creating equal opportunities for everyone – particularly for people with disabilities, who are more likely to live in poverty and vulnerable conditions. Investing in social protection programmes has proven to be vital to protecting their lives, promoting social and economic inclusion along with sustainable communities for all. This blog will explore how social cash transfers could reduce poverty and enhance equality for people with disabilities in Zambia by addressing the challenges and opportunities of such programmes.

Globally more than a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability (Mcclain-Nhlapo et al., 2018), and between 110 million and 190 million people who experience severe disabilities (Mcclain-Nhlapo et al., 2018) are living in poverty. In Zambia, people with disabilities deal with multidimensional poverty and face challenges to access essential services related to education, health, and employment. Many Zambian families with people with disabilities live, unfortunately, with only ZMV 6.10 per day ($0.61), and 80% of the population receive subsidies with less than ZMW 10 ($10) (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019). According to the central statistics office in Zambia, 23% of the people with disabilities who live in poverty are between ages 0 and 14, and 58.7% between ages 15 and 64 (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019). The rate of stunting, due to poverty and marginalization, among children with disability, is about 40% (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019). Hence, lifting people with disabilities out of poverty and marginalization is critical.

How do we make sure that no one is left behind? How do we reduce the challenges that people with disabilities face in Zambia, especially children? Children with disabilities are less likely to attend school since only 15.6% of disabled children are in school (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019), which also prevents them from entering the labor market to support economic growth. It is estimated that 35% of children with disabilities who live in poverty and are marginalized did not have a chance to attend school, and 68% leave at the end of primary school (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019). Only 40% of people with disabilities have the possibility to access public transportation (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019) to keep going to school. With social protection programmes, we can live in a society that offers equal opportunities and rights for all Zambian people with disabilities to achieve economic growth and social inclusion.


Enhancing equality for people with disabilities

The Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme has been supported by the Ministry of Community Development in Zambia since 2013 to protect 190,000 people with disabilities in 19 districts (Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, 2014). The SCT programme’s primary objectives are to reduce poverty and enhance equality by protecting the lives of people with disabilities. The Ministry of Community Development implemented this essential social protection program to reduce the rate of mortality and morbidity among children, reduce stunting and wasting among children with disabilities under 5 years old, supplement the income of households that have people with disabilities, increase the number of households that have a second meal per day, and increase the number of children with disabilities enrolled in primary school. Before 2014, the Zambian Government already had a scheme composed of 4 programmes – all of which are still active today by supporting communities:

  • The 10% Inclusive Programme, which refers to a community-based approach that supports 10% of households who have people with severe disabilities and are living in extreme poverty. This programme has been extended to protect 20 additional communities in Zambia (Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, 2014).
  • The Child Grant Programme (CGP), which focused on supporting households with children under 5 years of age. In 2013, the Zambian Ministry of Community Development included in the programme support for households with children with disabilities to up to 14 years of age and doubled the value of the transfer for households with a disabled member (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019).
  • Multiple Categorical Targeting (MCT) Programme, focused on protecting households headed by women with at least one orphan, households headed by an older person with at least one orphan, and households with at least one member with disabilities (Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, 2014).
  • Social Pension Scheme (Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, 2014), which supports households with people who are 65 or older and have children who have severe disabilities.

In 2014, a review of the social protection schemes led to a decision by the Zambian Ministry of Community Development to unify these approaches nationwide – hence, these programmes were all redesigned between 2014 and 2020. In 2015, the SCT programme was being implemented in 50 districts, whereas in 2016, in additional 28 districts (Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, 2014) to reduce poverty and enhance equality for people with disabilities.


Creating access to social cash transfer schemes

In 2016, the SCT programme was implemented in 78 districts (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019) with a social transfer of ZMK 80 per month to support 239,000 households (Arruda, Dubois, 2018) with people with disabilities. However, the inclusion of some people with disabilities has reduced significantly in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. In Chongwe district, only 63% of the beneficiaries were reached to be protected (Arruda, Dubois, 2018), and some children with disabilities were not registered to receive social protection benefits. Some Zambian families have people with disabilities who live in affluent households, and these people with disabilities may not themselves have income and would not be entitled to receive the SCT programme benefits. Creating more access through the SCT programme by protecting all people with disabilities and enabling them to receive an independent source of income that can facilitate social inclusion and equality is crucial. When we focus on protecting all people with disabilities in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, we can achieve inclusive growth for all. When the SCT programme is offered to all families who have people with disabilities, these people become more visible, and we can restore the hope that achieving greater equality is possible.


Inclusive peace for all

We can also double the social cash transfer for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families who have children with severe disabilities. If we increase the value of the transfer from ZMK 80 to ZMK 160 per month for all families who have children with disabilities, 6% of the GDP per capita (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019), we can protect all people in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Supporting all people with disabilities would cost only 0.43% of the GDP, and it will reduce poverty rates from 45% to 21% (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019) every year.  In 2017, the budget implemented for the SCT programme in Zambia was only 0.12% of the GDP (Kidd, Wapling, Kabare, 2019), so investing in additional 0.88 % to reach 1% of the GDP in 3 years through the SCT programme would expand the coverage of social protection benefits by protecting all people with disabilities. ­­­­­

In conclusion, supporting all people with disabilities is critical to creating greater equality, protecting their human rights and providing access to education, health services, and employment. Helping the Ministry of Community Development to receive additional resources is critical to the success of the SCT programme, as well as supporting the development of new policies and enhancing the existing ones. Including people with disabilities by creating an inclusive environment is vital to making sure that no one is left behind. When we create an inclusive society with greater equality, we can reduce poverty and build an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable world that will bring inclusive peace and prosperity for all.



Arruda, P., Dubois, L.. (2018). Zambia’s Social Cash Transfer Program. International Policy Center for Inclusive Growth Research Brief: Brazil.

Mcclain-Nhlapo, C. V., Sivonen, L. H. A., Raja, D. S., Palummo, S., & Acul, E. (2018). Disability inclusion framework. Washington D.C.: World Bank.

Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare. (2014). Social Cash Transfer Programme Factsheets. Lusaka: MCDSW.

Kidd, S., Wapling, L., & Kabare, K. (2019). Social Protection and Disability in Zambia. Working Paper.

Gooding, K. & Marriot, A. (2009). Including Persons with Disabilities in Social Cash Transfer Programmes in Developing Countries. Journal of International Development, 21, 685-698.






Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
  • Programme implementation
  • Programme design
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disability
  • Zambia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's