Beneficiary targeting during the COVID-19: getting social protection to the most vulnerable

After concerns over the lack of transparency and inclusivity in Zimbabwe social protection programmes targeting beneficiaries during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, communities provided a series of recommendations.

A woman wearing a mask receives money from another mask-wearing women behind a desk. Three other people in the bare room (one in a wheelchair) are standing/seated far apart.

A targeted beneficiary receiving cash-based assistance in Tafara, Zimbabwe, during COVID-19 (Photo: KnowYourCityTv Zimbabwe)

Communities have raised concerns about the targeting of beneficiaries in social protection programmes, especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many community members feel that the process lacks transparency and that they are excluded from identifying families that are most in need.

The state has a pre-existing register that is used for all interventions, regardless of the specific circumstances. As a result, some families receive benefits multiple times, while others who are equally disadvantaged are continuously excluded.

When it comes to providing aid to those in need, the government often employs case care workers from the department of social welfare to reach out to beneficiaries. These workers serve as a link between the department and the communities in need.

Additionally, many civil society organisations (CSOs) also employ contact persons, who are recommended by the government to approach these communities. In theory, vulnerable people need to register with the department of social welfare and wait for assistance. This registration is mandatory for anyone who falls into the category of being poor and vulnerable, as it ensures that they can receive help when it becomes available.

Registering problems

However, in practice when funding is available to assist individuals within the community, an outdated register is often used. Unfortunately, this register is susceptible to manipulation.

Multiple NGOs utilise the same register, resulting in the same individuals receiving aid from different organisations. Meanwhile, others who require assistance may not receive any aid at all.

Due to infrequent updates, the register may contain the same beneficiaries every time, with some deserving individuals being continuously excluded. This targeting process is exclusionary and highlights a gap in the implementation of Zimbabwe's social protection policy.

Beneficiary targeting has caused a rift in society, with different communities competing for limited resources provided by CSOs. Unfortunately, there is a lack of information on why some organisations choose to focus on certain groups, such as individuals with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic while leaving others out.

Recommendations for beneficiary targeting

This has led to confusion and frustration among those who are not being targeted, as they may be struggling just as much as those who are receiving assistance.

The communities have recommended the following to address the issues of beneficiary targeting:

  • It's important to maintain ongoing communication between stakeholders and communities prior to a disaster or pandemic. This helps to ensure that all parties are aware of the various vulnerabilities that may exist
  • The processes of compiling and updating registers of individuals in need must be strengthened to ensure the accurate distribution of support and to reduce the potential for fraud or favouritism
  • Before any disaster or pandemic strikes, it's important to conduct vulnerability assessments. These assessments help to identify areas of weakness and vulnerability, which can be targeted in the event of an emergency. It's a crucial step in the planning process to ensure that resources are allocated effectively and efficiently. By conducting vulnerability assessments, we can better prepare for the worst and minimise the impact of any potential disasters
  • It's important for both the government and communities to come up with ways to be transparent when it comes to choosing who should receive benefits within the community
  • One thing that's really important is for platforms to provide feedback after social protection programmes. A good way to do this is by conducting a survey to analyse whether the relief has reached the people who need it the most. This can help ensure that the programmes are effective and make a real difference in people's lives.

This article was compiled by Dialogue on Shelter's Teurai Anna Nyamangara