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Reuters Examines Conditional Cash Transfer Programs In Latin America

Reuters examines a program providing cash incentives to “more than 2.6 million Colombians, mostly women with young children living in extreme poverty” in exchange for their participation in “health workshops” and their commitment to ensuring their children receive “regular medical check-ups,” receive immunizations and “attend school at least 80 percent of the time.”

Reuters profiles one woman who “receives around $15 in cash from the Colombian government every two months,” noting that the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program “puts money directly into the hands of the country’s poorest, mostly those living on less than $1 a day. … Research shows that stunting [a sign of malnutrition] among Colombian children under two years has been reduced by 7 percent, while incidents of diarrhoea have fallen by 11 percent.”

Since being first launched “in Mexico during the late 1990s, [CCT schemes have] now spread to 15 countries in Latin America and reaches around 100 million people,” the news service writes.

The article explores how the CCT programs are seen by some as a way to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which, among other targets, aim to slash child and maternal mortality rates, decrease hunger, and reduce poverty. It includes comments by Amanda Glassman, a senior health specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank, and Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development (Moloney, 9/13).

A Reuters factbox describes the outcomes attributed to CCT programs around the world, including the U.S., South and East Asia, and Latin America: “Mexico’s cash transfer programme, known as Oportunidades, covers five million families – one out of every four households – and has an annual budget of nearly $4 billion.” According to U.N. research, Mexico’s CCT programs ” have reduced stunting among babies (aged two to six months) by 39 percent in girls and 19 percent in boys.” Additionally, “[m]aternal mortality rates are 11 percent lower in municipalities covered by the cash transfer programme.”

The factbox also notes the impact of Brazil’s “Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) programme [that] reaches some 12.6 million families … Children covered by the government benefit are more likely to be vaccinated on time against diseases such as polio, diphtheria and tetanus, according to recent research by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI),” Reuters writes (Moloney, 9/13).

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