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Almost 200,000 Kenyan Single Mothers and Widows lift themselves out of Poverty using Mobile Money Service

The impact was most dramatic among single mothers who used M-Pesa, a text message-based mobile payment system, after switching from farming to business and retail sales

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A man holds up his mobile phone showing an M-Pesa mobile money transaction page at an open-air market in Kibera in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, Dec. 31, 2014. VOA

NAIROBI, KENYA, December 09, 2016: Almost 200,000 Kenyan households, many headed by poor, rural women, have lifted themselves out of poverty using mobile money services, experts said Thursday, calling for the technology to be introduced in other developing countries.

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The impact was most dramatic among single mothers who used M-Pesa, a text message-based mobile payment system, after switching from farming to business and retail sales, the journal Science found.

“What we saw over six years was impressive,” Tavneet Suri, associate professor of applied economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement. “When M-Pesa came to an area, women shifted their occupations and their savings went up.”

The expansion of M-Pesa, which is used in virtually every Kenyan home, lifted 194,000 households — or 2 percent of households nationwide — above the poverty line in six years, the study found.

It provides further evidence that mobile phone technology can help to bring financial services to the 80 percent of African women who do not have bank accounts and bolster growth of the world’s poorest continent.

M-Pesa is a cheap way of sending, receiving and saving money via more than 110,000 local agents, often operating out of tiny kiosks in remote parts of Kenya.

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Pedestrians walk past an M-Pesa shop in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, May 12, 2009 VOA
Pedestrians walk past an M-Pesa shop in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, May 12, 2009 VOA

It gives people who would otherwise be unable to access traditional financial services a simple, reliable and fast way of moving and saving money.

Mobile money’s impact on the lives of poor women was one of the most exciting aspects of the study, experts said, as policymakers have struggled to understand what kinds of projects are most effective at reducing poverty.

Researchers found that the number of female-headed households living in extreme poverty fell by 22 percent within a 1-kilometer radius of an area where six new M-Pesa agents opened between 2008 and 2010.

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There was no impact on male-headed households.

“Sometimes the poor, and poor women in particular, just need access to the right set of simple tools to help themselves,” said Annie Duflo, executive director of Innovations for Poverty Action, a research-and-policy group that took part in the study. “Hopefully, these results will inform and encourage the targeted scaling of mobile money services in other countries.” (VOA)

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Survey: India is Still Far Away from Achieving its Goal of Zero Hunger

It notes India now suffers from the double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition

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It notes India now suffers from the double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition. Wikimedia Commons

A recent nutritional survey in India finds the country is still far away from achieving its goal of zero hunger for its populous country of more than one billion. The report was jointly produced by the U.N. World Food Program and the India’s Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation.

The report, the first of its kind, provides an intimate look into the progress being made in improving the nutritional status of India’s 1.3 billion people by addressing the country’s severe food shortages. While progress is being made toward this goal, World Food Program spokesman, Herve Verhoosel said India is still far away from wiping out hunger in the country.

“The report indicates that despite positive trends and patterns in improving food security, malnutrition rates are well below acceptable levels, with large numbers of people, especially women and children, suffering from Vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiency,” said Verhoosel.

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FILE – A child eats a pomegranate collected from waste at a slum area on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Oct. 12, 2018. VOA

The report indicates stunting (low height-for-age) has declined by one fifth in India during the last decade. Nevertheless, it notes 6.4 percent of children under five are both stunted and wasted (low weight-for-height) and also are underweight. A much larger percentage, 18.1 percent of children are both stunted and underweight. These conditions are a result of insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections. Stunting can cause irreversible physical and mental impairment and wasting can lead to death in children under five.

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The report finds the prevalence of malnutrition in children between six months and five years has declined, but that of acute malnutrition, or wasting, has marginally increased. It notes India now suffers from the double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition.

In the last decade, it says the prevalence of low body mass index has decreased by more than one-third in both women and men. During the same period, it says overweight and obesity have increased from 13 to 21 percent among women and from nine to 19 percent among men. (VOA)