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Technical Assistance papers to inform early social protection responses to COVID-19 in South Asia

This Virtual Booth will share studies that informed UNICEF Social Protection agendas in the early days when the COVID-19 crisis hit the region. Built in collaboration with the IPC-IG these documents assessed the relevance of some important agendas UNICEF deemed strategical for tackling the COVID-19 crisis in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal, gathering information that at that time was scarce and fragmented to back up the need for protecting certain vulnerable groups, the most appropriate programme formats to reach them out, and in some cases, already estimating potential coverage and funding for the advocated policies to be rolled out.

For Afghanistan, Bhutan and Maldives these studies basically identified some core vulnerable groups that were being hit hard by the crisis and not adequately covered by Social Protection responses till that time. These studies considered context-specificities, data availability, and case-management capacity at each country, thus resulting on three proposals for COVID-19 responsive cash transfers each pointing to slightly distinct approaches.

In Afghanistan, UNICEF understood there was already a fair amount of national awareness about who are the main vulnerable groups, though at the same time social protection responses were lagging behind the humanitarian responses. Hence the country’s report consisted of proposals for several different programme’s considering different fiscal availability scenarios. This included programme’s formats ranging from a universal child grant to a universal female child grant but also with possibilities to roll out combinations of geographical and categorical programmes targeting the poor who are not already subjects of the humanitarian responses. Importantly, given the limited shock responsive capacity already available for the country’s social protection sector, the proposal dedicated a large amount of effort to detailing potential arrangements for operationalizable means to process a quick and gradual enrollment and payment operation. Click here for the full text.

In Bhutan, UNICEF’s perception was different in the sense that if felt like the crisis really urged for a universal child grant that could be realistically afforded by the government. A main perceived challenge was to advocate for the idea, which is why its proposal consisted on a costing of different values of reference for one such programme, but a great effort was dedicated to deconstructing myths about social protection, outlining the several design possibilities that can be adopted by one such programme, and highlighting potential effects as drawn from international experiences. Click here for the full text.

In Maldives the challenge was yet different since the crisis had a more clear job-sector cut and, at the same time, differently form the other countries, the geographic and demographic composition of the country enabled a sort of intensive case management that could potentially allow the government to mediate eligibility to response programmes based on job-sectoral occupation (which is something most times hard to validate in widespread informal labor markets like the one sof South Asia). Hence, the work consisted on a brief advocacy about why these groups should be given priority, combined with multiple coverage and cost projections considering the combination of these features with others like household composition and income-level, in the hope that some of those possibilities could be afforded by the government and its development partners. Click here for the full text.

Finally, in the case of Nepal, one of the first reports to be elaborated form this series, at the very early days of the COVID-19 crisis the causality pathways through which this could hurt children were still not widely known. Thus, this paper focused on consolidating all these potential negative effects and their causality pathways, which was meant to facilitate advocacy efforts to boost more child-sensitive responses to the crisis and, especially, to promote such kind of responses that included cash transfer initiatives. Click here for the full text.

Feel free to reach out to our team:

  • Main coordinator of the VB: Abdul Alim, Regional Social Policy Advisor, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia – ROSA aalim@unicef.org
  • Assistant to the coordinator of the VB: Pedro Arruda, IPC-IG Researcher pedro.arruda@ipc-undp.org
  • Responsible person for discussing the paper on Afghanistan: Stanley Gwavuya, Chief Social Policy, Evaluation, Analytics, and Research at UNICEF Afghanistan sgwavuya@unicef.org
  • Responsible persons for discussing the paper on Bhutan: Marie-Consolee Mukangendo, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Bhutan mcmukangendo@unicef.org & Jigme Dorji, Social Policy Specialist, UNICEF Bhutan, jdorji@unicef.org    
  • Responsible person for discussing the paper on Maldives: Munir Safieldin, Representative
  • UNICEF Maldives Country Office msafieldin@unicef.org
  • Responsible person for discussing the paper on Nepal: Usha Mishra, Chief of Social Policy, Evidence and Evaluation at UNICEF Nepal umishra@unicef.org
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