THE Ministry of Social Development is on a drive to expand the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA) to cover 64 councils from the current 36.
NISSA Manager, Setlaba Phalatsi, said this would help to ensure the country has an updated database that would enhance the targeting of social protection programs aimed at reducing vulnerability of poorest of the poor households. The NISSA database can also be used in strengthening the responsiveness of social assistance programmes during shocks such as drought.
The National Information System is a single registry or database that stores socio-economic data for targeting, coordination, planning and management of functions such as delivery of social payments, case management, monitoring and evaluation of Social Assistance programmes such as Child Grants Program.
At the end of 2017, there were 235,000 households from 58 Community Councils in the NISSA database. The Ministry of Social Development plans to collect data from 200,000 households covering 42 councils by end of 2018; which will constitute six new Community Councils and updating of old NISSA information from 36 Community Councils.
The government has entered into a tripartite agreement with the European Union and UNICEF for implementation of Social Protection in the country.
So far, the European Union has provided € 31.6 million for Social Protection support that includes system strengthening through National Information System for Social assistance. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is providing technical assistance in order to enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Social Development in the development and population of NISSA database, in addition to the implementation of social protection initiatives.
Mr Phalatsi told the Sunday Express that there was need to update the seven year-old database to provide new information that would help the government and development partners in targeting vulnerable people and also help to improve coordination of assistance programmes.
“A lot of changes have happened over the years, in terms of the status of families, hence the need to update the information. The overall goal is to make sure that the NISSA database acieves national coverage, and therefore enable the government to reach all vulnerable households wherever they are in order to improve the quality of life of those that are vulnerable,” Mr Phalatsi said.
He explained the need to improve the efficiency of the database by ensuring it is easily accessible to social protection stakeholders and partners so that it can be used as a platform for targeting and coordination of social assistance programs. This, he said, would also enable the government to increase coverage of social assistance programs. The scope of work on NISSA, he said, also allows sharing of information for coordination purposes and to prevent duplication of programmes.
“An updated NISSA will go a long way in ensuring that areas, which were not covered previously by some development partners, due to lack of data, can also be included in their programmes,” Mr Phalatsi said.
“We would like NISSA to achieve national coverage for it to function well as a registry and a platform for targeting. Through NISSA, we will be able to know who gets what from which program. We will also be able to monitor and evaluate our programs to be able to see if programs achieve required impact.
“This is important because social assistance programmes should improve lives of vulnerable households benefiting from them and enable communities being assisted to eventually graduate from poverty. In addition, we also need to know whether we are having more people falling into the vulnerability category and why that is happening,” Mr Phalatsi said.
He said there were efforts to decentralise NISSA in the districts in order to improve its use at district level.
Mr Phalatsi further explained that NISSA has been used in the past for targeting during disasters such as the 2015/16 El-Nino-induced drought.
“The Ministry will work with all stakeholders to ensure that they take advantage of this important database for improved response to future disasters.”