Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Is money enough to improve children's well-being? New evidence from Burundi and Uganda

Feb 24, 2012
institutional sponsor: 
USAID Displaced Children & Orphans Fund


The USAID Displaced Children & Orphans Fund and the Office of HIV/AIDS invite participants to an evidence seminar on the findings from Burundi from the impact evaluation of IRC's VSLA and family-based program and from Uganda on an economic empowerment model of care and support for orphaned adolescents.

Burundi: Findings from an impact evaluation of IRC's VSLA and family-based program

Recovering from decades of conflict that claimed 300,000 lives and forced over a million people to flee their homes, Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world.   To address the risks facing children, while also building evidence around effective approaches for children affected by both poverty and armed conflict, the IRC is implementing and evaluating Urwaruka Rushasha (New Generation),  a three-year project funded by USAID’s Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF). The randomized impact evaluation asks the questions:

  • Do Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) improve economic outcomes of poor households?
  • And do the family-based discussion modules offer additional benefits for child well-being beyond that which can be explained by increased economic outcomes?

Results from the midterm survey showed that participation in VSLAs increased consumption expenditures, increased household assets and reduced poverty.  In addition, participation in the family-based intervention decreased the use of harsh discipline, increased children’s wellbeing and decreased the incidence of family problems. A final survey will be conducted later this year to further investigate the impact on children’s emotional and behavioral health and child labor.

Uganda:  Integrating Child Savings Accounts in the Care and Support of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

In most parts of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the burden of raising youth who have lost one or both parents falls primarily on extended family members, including grandparents, uncles, and aunts. However, the steady increase in the number of orphans, coupled with the increase in poverty that comes with the loss of wage-earning parents, is contributing to a breakdown in the African extended family system. Because there are few public welfare programs to serve them, many orphans are left to fend for themselves. Using data from two randomized experimental studies funded by U.S. National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH): Suubi-Uganda and Suubi-Maka, this presentation will examine the impact of an economic empowerment model of care and support for orphaned adolescents (ages 11-17) in rural Uganda. Specifically, the intervention to be examined involves provision of matched children/youth savings accounts (CSA)--for education and microenterprise development--over and above counseling and educational related supplies (including text-books and school uniforms) to school-going orphaned children. The analyses indicate that poor families in rural Uganda can and do save for their youth if provided with support and incentives. Analyses also locate statistically significant differences between youth who were offered the opportunity to save in the CSAs and a control groups (which only received school supplies with no savings accounts). Specifically, although the two study groups did not differ on their baseline scores on several educational and health-related outcomes, data collected following the intervention indicate that children with savings accounts performed better on all measurable observable outcomes, including attitudes towards saving, academic performance, educational plans and aspirations, and health-related behaviors. The results suggest that:

  • Savings-related interventions may have a place in the care and support of orphaned youth in poor SSA, where the numbers of such youth are steadily increasing.
  • These kinds of interventions may be an important ingredient in the much needed combined approaches in the care and support of orphaned and vulnerable children, especially those residing in low resource settings—like those in SSA.
  • Youth serving institutions might consider integrating similar economic empowerment approaches in their program designs.


Jeannie Annan
International Rescue Committee

Jeannie Annan, Ph.D, is the Director of Research and Evaluation for the International Rescue Committee and a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

She studies the long term effects of violent trauma, the causes and consequences of gender-based violence, and the effectiveness and impacts of humanitarian aid. Her work aims to improve humanitarian policy and programs through rigorous research, and much of Annan's current work develops and evaluates programs that prevent and respond to violence. Annan is most focused on children and youth in armed conflict, as well as sexual and gender based violence against women. She also explores the psychosocial impacts of war violence. Learn more »

Fred Ssewamala
Columbia University School of Social Work

Fred Ssewamala, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Social Work and International Affairs at Columbia University School of Social Work; a Global Thought Fellow with Columbia University; and a Senio

r Research Fellow with New America Foundation. Ssewamala has several years of practice in the International Social Development field. His practice experience includes serving at the Red Cross (Uganda), where he acted in several programmatic positions related to designing projects and programs for poverty alleviation and community development. His current research on Africa is funded by a consortium of organizations, including the National Institute of Health, and New America Foundation. This research focuses on asset-ownership development and creating life options through economic empowerment models for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in sub-Saharan Africa. Ssewamala is also currently researching the acceptability and feasibility of economic empowerment interventions in poor African immigrant communities in the urban U.S. Learn more »