External Economic Support to the poorest households

Export Indicator

Proportion of the poorest households who received external economic support in the last 3 months
What it measures

It measures progress in providing external economic support to poorest households affected by HIV and AIDS.


Economic support (with a focus on social assistance and livelihoods assistance) to poor and HIV-affected households remains a high priority in many comprehensive care and support programs. This indicator reflects the growing international commitment to HIV-sensitive social protection. It recognizes that the household should be the primary unit of analysis since many of the care and support services are directed to the household level. However, household data should be disaggregated to track whether or not households have orphans or an HIV-positive person. Tracking coverage of households with orphans and within the poorest quintile remains a developmental priority.


Number of the poorest households that received any form of external economic support in the last 3 months.


Total number of poorest households.


Numerator / Denominator

Method of measurement

Population-based surveys such as Household Income and Expenditure Surveys,
Household Budget Surveys, Demographic and Health Survey, AIDS Indicator
Survey, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey or other nationally representative survey. National Statistics Offices carry out Household Income and Expenditure
Surveys and questions include “current transfers received (cash and goods) and
current transfers received (services)”.
An assessment of the household’s wealth (through an assessment of asset ownership) is completed at the data analysis stage using the wealth quintile to identify the poorest 20% of households. However, since it is not possible to identify the poorest households at the time of data collection, questions on economic support should be asked to all households. Only those who fall in the lowest wealth quintile will be included in the indicator.
As part of a household survey, a household roster should be used to list all members of the household together with their ages, and identify all households with children less than 18 years of age, and with orphans, in the last year before the survey. Questions are then asked for each such household about the types of economic support received in the last 3 months, and the primary source of the help.
The household heads or respondents are asked the following questions about the type of external economic support they have received in the last 3 months.
Has your household received any of the following forms of external economic support in the last 3 months:
a) Cash transfer (e.g., pensions, disability grant, child grant, to be adapted according to country context)
b) Assistance for school fees
c) Material support for education (e.g., uniforms, school books etc)
d) Income generation support in cash or kind e.g. agricultural inputs
e) Food assistance provided at the household or external institution (e.g., at school)
f) Material or financial support for shelter
g) Other form of economic support (specify)
An assessment of the household’s wealth (through an assessment of asset ownership) is completed at the data analysis stage using the wealth quintile at which point it will possible to assess the extent to which the poorest households are receiving external support.
It is recommended that the indicator is disaggregated by type of external economic support in order to track the different types of economic support provided – particularly to be able to distinguish between access to free social assistance such as cash transfers (often targeted at poor labour-constrained households) and livelihoods support which is often targeted at poor households which are less labour-constrained. It is also recommended that the indicator is disaggregated by whether or not households have orphans as orphaning remains a major determinant of vulnerability, particularly in relation to access to services. Where possible, data should also be disaggregated by rural versus urban residence. For countries which opt to add data collection on households in other wealth quintiles in addition to those in the bottom quintile, the indicator can also be compared with other wealth quintiles to track whether external economic support is reaching the bottom quintile compared to wealthier quintiles.

Measurement frequency

Every 4-5 years

Explanation of the numerator

External economic support is defined as free economic help (Cash grants, assistance for school fees, material support for education, income generation support in cash or kind, food assistance provided at the household level, or material or financial support for shelter) that comes from a source other than friends, family or neighbours unless they are working for a community-based group or organization. This source is most likely to be the national government or a civil society organization.

Explanation of the denominator

Poorest households are defined as a household in the bottom wealth quintile. Countries should use the exact indicator definition and method of measurement for standardized progress monitoring and reporting at national and global levels. This will allow monitoring of changes over time and comparisons across different countries. However, countries can add or exclude other categories locally (for example, other wealth quintiles) depending on the country needs with respect to national program planning and implementation.

Strengths and weaknesses

This indicator reflects new evidence of the need for a greater focus on wealth dimensions of vulnerability and the fact that that targeting on the basis of extreme poverty in high prevalence contexts ensures good coverage of poor households affected by HIV and AIDS . Proxy indicators of AIDS affectedness (such as “chronic illness’) have often been poorly associated with HIV, have weak associations with adverse developmental outcomes, and have proven difficult to define in household questionnaires.
This indicator demonstrates changing levels of economic support for the poorest households. In high prevalence contexts, in particular, the majority are likely to be HIV affected. The indicator also demonstrates changes in the composition of external support (e.g. cash, food, livelihoods) received by poor households.
The indicator does not measure directly economic support to HIV infected and affected households, which is difficult to establish during a survey, but implicitly suggests that households living in the bottom wealth quintile in high prevalence contexts are more likely to be negatively impacted by HIV and AIDS and in need of economic assistance. In order to keep measurement as simple as possible, the indicator does not attempt to identify the different sources of support to households but this should be partly captured in National AIDS Spending Assessments (NASA).
The collection of data through population-based surveys, particularly DHS and MICS, means that the indicator does not capture the status of people living outside of households such as street children, children in institutions and internally displaced populations. Separate surveys are needed to track coverage for such vulnerable populations.

Further information

For further information, please consult the following website: