Social Protection is a set of interventions intended to reduce social and economic risks and vulnerabilities, and to alleviate extreme poverty and deprivation. Until recently, Social Protection was considered a privilege of developed nations. A majority of countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, however, now agrees that Social Protection is no longer a luxury that they cannot afford.
In 2006, 13 countries in the region signed the Livingstone Accord under the auspices of the African Union (AU). Governments committed themselves to developing national Social Protection strategies and integrating them into their national development plans and budgets.
The Livingstone Accord was followed by the Social Policy Framework for Africa (2008), which signaled increased political commitment from the AU with regards to Social Protection. The African Ministers of Social Development committed their countries to gradually building up Social Protection and social security, based on comprehensive longer-term national Social Protection Action Plans.
The declarations represented an emerging consensus that a minimum package of essential Social Protection should cover essential health care and benefits for children, informal workers, the unemployed, the elderly and persons with disabilities, to be expanded as more fiscal space becomes available. Overall, these commitments have opened up new opportunities for UNICEF and partners to work with governments on the fulfillment of children’s rights to survival, development and protection.
UNICEF in action
UNICEF advocates for child-sensitive Social Protection systems that mitigate the effects of poverty on families, strengthen families in their child care role, enhance access to basic services for the poorest and most marginalized, and provide special services to children who live outside a family environment. UNICEF also advocates for Social Protection instruments that are gender-sensitive and based on the universality of human rights.
In its framework and strategy for Social Protection in Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF focuses on five key interventions:
Results for children
Throughout the region, UNICEF has been supporting governments in the development of national Social Protection strategies or frameworks as well as civil society and other partners in the implementation of Social Protection programmes.
In Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa for example, UNICEF has provided support for the development of policy guidelines and professional standards as well as training and human resource development.
In Namibia, UNICEF supports a programme of the Church Alliance for Orphans, which has a membership of 380 local congregations and faith and community-based organizations. The church plays a key advocacy role with the country’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, which leads a permanent task force on orphans and vulnerable children. This is an example of cooperation that has expanded the coverage and capacity of both the government as well as religious and community-based organizations.
In Zimbabwe, the Government has expanded its definition of vulnerability and empowered a network of civil society organizations to distribute the necessary resources for orphans and vulnerable children - at the district and local levels, and through a large pool of partners. This type of approach has succeeded in dramatically increasing the number of children who receive social assistance.