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Investments in children’s health and the Kenyan cash transfer for orphans and vulnerable children: evidence from an unconditional cash transfer scheme
Child mortality is one of the most pressing global health and policy issues in the developing world. The leading drivers of death—pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria—are preventable and treatable. However, these illnesses are exacerbated by a lack of accessible nutrition, water, basic and preventive health services, and sanitary living conditions—all factors which are more likely to disproportionately impact the poor. We examine whether Kenya’s largest social protection impacts children’s incidence of upper respiratory illness. The Kenya Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children was designed to support orphans affected by HIV/AIDS and has covered over 240,000 households as of 2014. Using longitudinal, cluster-randomized program data from 2007 to 2009, we run a generalized linear latent and mixed method estimation model on a sample of children 0–7 years and under-5 years of age. We find that the program is associated with a decrease in illness in children 0–7 years of age (P < 0.05), but found no effects on a stratified sample of under-5 children. Furthermore, no impacts on health care seeking in the event of illness were detected. This study is one of few examining children’s health using data from a large scale unconditional cash transfer program. With the widespread adoption of over 123 cash transfer programs across sub-Saharan Africa, these findings suggest social cash transfer programs are capable of promoting the multidimensional well-being for the world’s most vulnerable populations.