Every year, the World Food Programme (WFP) provides vital food and nutrition assistance to around 80 million people, yet there are 815 million people who do not have enough to eat worldwide. If WFP wants to help governments reduce the number of hungry people in the world to zero by 2030, it needs to work with and through national systems, such as social protection systems.
Social protection systems protect the most vulnerable from shocks and stresses throughout their lives. They usually address multiple, inter-related issues, including poverty, inequality and food security, thus facilitating the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG2 on Zero Hunger.
Safety nets are typical components of social protection systems. They consist of predictable and reliable transfers of food, cash, vouchers or goods to vulnerable groups. Every country in the world has at least one safety net in place.
WFP has a long tradition of implementing and supporting safety nets, including school meals programmes, which help improve children’s health, nutrition and learning, and food assistance for assets schemes, which provide people with cash, voucher or food transfers in exchange for the building or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience. Most of these WFP safety nets are designed for eventual handover to the government.
Leveraging its experience, WFP pioneers approaches and tools that can be integrated within national safety nets and social protection systems. This includes developing platforms to register and manage information on safety net beneficiaries; improving beneficiary targeting; piloting innovative money transfer mechanisms; establishing networks of accredited shops where people can spend their allowances; and encouraging the purchase of locally-produced food for safety nets such as school meals programmes.
WFP also builds government capacity to improve the ability of social protection systems to respond to emergencies, such as natural disasters or sudden large displacements of people. WFP increasingly uses and builds upon government-owned safety nets to respond to emergencies, thus avoiding duplication of efforts and strengthening the shock-responsive capacities of the national system. It did this, for instance, in Ecuador to complement government assistance to populations affected by the earthquake and in Fiji to support government assistance after tropical cyclone Winston hit the country.
Finally, WFP also supports governments to improve the food security and nutrition impacts of their social protection system. For example, WFP’s work to include nutrition elements in the Dominican Republic’s social safety net Progresando con Solidaridad has led to a 50% drop in anaemia rates among children under 5.