The Corona pandemic plunged Tunisia's socially vulnerable families in particular into a crisis that exacerbated their poverty. The government focused on containing the pandemic, which delayed the planned social reform. The basic social assistance already in place was therefore initially expanded and the target group extended. KfW is financing this Corona aid in a second phase on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with a further grant of EUR 10 million, which was agreed at the end of June.
Tunisia has been severely affected by the pandemic. In June alone, more than 2,000 people died of Corona, and hospitals are already overloaded and beginning to improvise. The incidence in the holiday resort of Sousse is over 500 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants. Especially the poor population depends on going to work despite the risk of infection - if the job still exists. This makes the ongoing support for socially vulnerable families all the more important.
KfW had already provided EUR 12 million from the BMZ's Corona emergency aid for the UNICEF programme last year. A further EUR 10 million has now been agreed to continue the successful project in a second phase. The social aid makes it easier for poor families to compensate for the loss of income due to the pandemic to the extent that they can secure food and schooling for their children. Until now, socially weak families have mostly lived from informal work, which is particularly hard hit by the corona-related restrictions and therefore often simply ceases to exist.
What is new in the second phase is that the circle of recipients has been expanded and the duration of the aid extended. Previously, only up to three children per needy family aged up to five years received the assistance, now all children under five years are counted among the recipients. This increased the number of beneficiary children from the original 40,000 to 116,000. Social assistance will be paid for them retroactively from April 2021. The original plan was to phase out payments at the end of July. However, the pandemic has not yet been averted and continues to show its effects. The payments were therefore extended until the end of December 2021.
Families living below the poverty line receive 30 Tunisian dinars (about nine euros) per month per child under five. In future, all needy children will be supported until the age of 18. The aim is that with the first and second phase of the project, a total of 426,000 children and young people will receive social assistance by the end of 2021. Communication campaigns will promote attendance at schools, provide information on ways to eat a balanced diet and the importance of vaccinations. From the beginning of next year, the World Bank is to take over the financing of the programme.
Tunisia has been supporting the country's poor families with cash transfers since the mid-1980s, but the programmes have been fragmented until now. The plan is to introduce an umbrella programme for existing aid as part of a social reform. But crisis management to contain the pandemic and two changes of government delayed the reform. The KfW project is embedded in the reform plans.
The reform aims to introduce a basic protection system, which is part of a reform programme in Tunisia financed by several donors, including KfW and the World Bank. The UNICEF programme, co-financed by KfW from BMZ funds, serves as a short-term bridge until the new social system is introduced. It helps the children to develop their potential for the future. The project contributes to poverty reduction, food security and better education.