24 April 2023

Integrating social protection and nutrition

Poor nutrition and child poverty remain serious problems in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). Poverty drives child undernutrition by restricting household access to foods and services, and undermining caregivers’ ability to provide optimal care for their children. Malnutrition drives poverty, as children who are undernourished have lower educational outcomes and lower economic productivity as adults. Social protection programmes such as cash transfer programmes can address child poverty and remove household socioeconomic barriers of access to nutritious foods – important enablers of child nutrition. Evidence shows that cash transfer programmes are more likely to improve child nutrition when additional (‘plus’) elements are added that address other barriers of access to nutritious foods, and barriers to the uptake of health and nutrition services and optimal child care and feeding. ‘Plus’ elements may include support for the development of kitchen gardens, referrals to health and nutrition services, and nutrition Social and Behaviour Change (SBC). UNICEF has been supporting governments in ESA region to implement ‘cash plus’ programmes that address child nutrition and wellbeing. Many of these have been trialled as pilot programmes that are now being scaled up. In 2022, UNICEF ESA Regional Office social policy and nutrition teams worked with the Global Technical Team on social protection and nutrition and UNICEF country offices to document six examples of cash plus programmes in the region. Through this process we aimed to describe the design and implementation of these programmes, and identify lessons learned and future opportunities to support country, regional and global learning. The synthesis of lessons learned and all six individual case studies can be downloaded here and will be useful for social policy and nutrition programmers and decision-makers in ESA and worldwide.