Supporting social protection programmes to adapt to the changing COVID-19 context in East Africa

Rachel Slater and Dani Baur

Rachel Slater, CIDT’s in-house social protection expert, is leading a team to enhance evidence-based decision making, learning and accountability in World Food Programme (WFP) social protection work in the context of COVID-19 and other factors. This work is being undertaken with the WFP Regional Bureau and Country Offices in East Africa.

Forming a virtual Social Protection Learning Facility, the experts support eight Country Offices, combining real-time evaluation of WFP’s activities with technical assistance to staff. WFP teams are navigating difficult trade-offs as they seek to support governments to adapt social protection in the region.

The most effective and efficient way to scale up social protection is rarely clear cut and identifying and navigating trade-offs is common for any agency. The provision of technical support from the University of Wolverhampton and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) team helps staff make decisions by providing evidence from other countries about the options available and providing expert analysis and advice on alternative approaches.

The Facility operates and responds flexibly to requests that are shaped by a constantly evolving situation. The team is designed to be adaptable across three interlinked areas:

  • Monitoring and accountability: Monitoring, assessing and reporting in real-time on social protection operations in the context of COVID-19;
  • Technical support: Providing advice to Country Offices based on their collective experience and knowledge of social protection and country contexts;
  • Documenting learning: Compiling and disseminating lessons, findings and experiences for future policy and programme design decision-making.

The process of scaling up existing social protection programmes and creating new ones in response to COVID-19 has been rapid and substantial. The World Bank reports that, from 20th March – 10th July, the number of countries with planned or ongoing social protection responses to COVID-19 increased from 48 to 200, with a combined 1,055 active or planned social protection measures.

Some key highlights from the Facility include:

  • establishing virtual learning and exchange spaces that encourage cross-regional sharing and discussion on emerging ‘hot topics’. These interactive forums highlight emerging good practice and innovation in support of social protection programming design and delivery for COVID-19 response.
  • modifying systems for targeting, verification and payment to ensure that social protection operations do not become a source of infection.
  • adapting programme design features, such as asset creation and income generation activities, to be more effective in urban contexts.
  • adjusting working practices and training activities to ensure social distancing and appropriateness.
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