Social protection programs vital to fight vs hunger

Jodesz Gavilan
The 2015 State of Food Security in the World report reveals that social protection plays a big role in the developing world meeting its MDG hunger target

CCT. Indigent families receive benefits from the government's Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program. File photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Social protection programs are now an important tool against hunger and malnutrition, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

The 2015 State of Food Security in the World (SOFI) revealed that social protection played a big role in the progress of the developing world in achieving the Millennium Development Goal’s hunger target: to lessen by half the hunger prevalence.

The UN Research Institute for Social Development defines social protection as programs and policies implemented to decrease poverty and vulnerability to various risks. 

These programs come in various forms under the categories of social insurance, labor market policies and programs, social welfare, and social safety nets.  

The report found that the school-feeding programs are the “most widespread type of social protection programs” as they are implemented in 130 countries, while unconditional cash transfers are slowly rising with a coverage of 118 countries.

More than 100 countries have some sort of cash transfer program which focuses on increasing access – especially to children – food and nutrition, health, and education.

This “regular or predictable cash transfer” helped households under the poverty line to fill immediate food gaps while they improved their productive capacity through the employment support given.

Meanwhile, a 2014 study by the World Bank concluded that effective social protection programs should be part of the post-2015 agenda as these prevented the fall of approximately 150 million people globally into the poverty trap.

Efforts, both global and regional, are also cited as being instrumental in lobbying for social protection programs but the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 70% of the world’s poor still do not have access to adequate social protection.

Combine with other programs

Social protection programs combined with health-related interventions emerged in the past 20 years as a significant player in achieving food security and nutrition.

However, FAO suggested that these schemes would be “more effective and efficient” in hunger mitigation if combined with complementary agricultural development measures.

According to the report, the “most effective social protection policies for improved food security and rural poverty reduction” are those very well integrated with policies related to agriculture. These often are fully aligned with visions of creating sustainable livelihoods for the poor.

These measures link family farmers – who are under social protection programs – to school feeding programs. As a result, the impact of these programs will not only cover the beneficiary family, but also contribute to ending hunger and malnutrition in the community.

Philippine setting

The most known social protection program in the Philippines is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Under this program, qualified families can get up to P1,400 ($32) a month for the health and education needs of their children aged up to 18 years.

Since its implementation in 2008, the program has been consistently met with criticism due to questions about its huge budget and effectiveness throughout the years. (READ: Lawmakers question DSWD’s conditional cash transfer program)

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, however, has maintained that 4Ps is an “important investment” which focuses on long-term goals, with effects seen in the future. – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.