THE National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA), which has so far covered 138 000 households in the 32 councils in the rural parts of the country, is targeting to have covered the entire nation by the beginning of the new financial year in April 2019.
Out of the 44 councils which NISSA targeted for this year, the programme is only left with 10 which are set to be completed before end of March so they can be enrolled in the next financial year’s budget.
The outstanding councils include hard to reach areas like Khoelenya in Mohale’s Hoek, Bokong in Thaba-Tseka and Tsoelikana in Qacha’s Nek.
The NISSA manager in the Ministry of Social Development, Setlaba Phalatsi, recently told the Lesotho Times that their plan is to leave no stone unturned in rolling the programme to the entire country.
“NISSA was first rolled out in the rural parts of the country and currently, we are focused on those hard to reach areas where we are using helicopters to reach since we plan to cover the entire country so that every family can be included in the database,” Mr Phalatsi said.
“We started collecting this data in mid-June last year covering 22 councils and further rolling out 10 more this month. Data is currently being collected in the remaining 10 councils, six of which will be enrolled for the first time when the next financial year starts in April.
“The other plan is to roll out to 12 urban councils which include Maseru City Council starting from the second term of this year in strides to include everyone.”
NISSA is a social development drive launched in 2010 with the financial aid of the European Union while the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) offers technical support. It is described as single registry database aimed at expanding social-protection services through improved targeting and delivery mechanisms, as well as increasing the coverage of social-protection programmes, particularly the Child Grants Programme (CGP).
NISSA collects poverty data in all the 10 districts and then hands it over to the other programmes of the ministry in to be used in programmes such as CGP, the orphaned bursaries allocation and old age programmes among others.
In 2014, the Social Development Ministry, reviewed the structure of NISSA by categorising communities into four social classes to ensure that the programmes such as CGP benefitted the right families and that the funds allocated to destitute families served the purpose.
“When we first started, the challenge we encountered most was that people would falsify information including registering children who are not theirs.
“We then reviewed the programme and now involve communities in our data collection. We host community gatherings in partnership with councillors and chiefs. This is where we categorise people into four groups of the poorest, the poor, middle class and the wealthy. We consider the sources of income, food security, participation in farming, if they have livestock and ability to take children to school, clothe and feed them.
“We then target the poorest families through our grants programmes. There are also those child-headed households which we often advise that they be enumerated from their relatives’ families so that the ministry can determine the kind of help they need.
“We used to have problems where the funds were diverted by caretakers of a family for other uses instead of taking care of the needy. However, now we work closely with our village watchdogs who then report if there are wrongdoings so we take necessary steps.”
Mr Phalatsi also said that the NISSA data is also used by their development partners which include the UN’s Food and Agricultural Association (FAO) or any other donors who wish to donate to the vulnerable people.
“We have so many development partners who also donate to the less fortunate so this database helps us not to duplicate efforts in that we fully know the needs of each households. Therefore, we discuss with development partners the type of aid we provide so that they may offer something different. For instance, we offer grants and we often partner with FAO which will in-turn offer seeds for beneficiaries to engage in farming to sustain their livelihood.
“This information can also be used for national budgeting purposes and may be disseminated to other ministries to increase reach. We collect the data using tablets which automatically send the data into our server, which means collected data can be accessed easily,” Mr Phalatsi said.