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.
13 October 2021

A Rapid Assessment of Budget Briefs in Eastern and Southern Africa

This report presents key findings of a light review of the experiences of UNICEF country offices in developing budget briefs in Eastern and Southern Africa. UNICEF’s use of this public finance tool has increased significantly in recent years, from two country offices producing six briefs in 2015 to 17 country offices producing 100 briefs in 2020. The quality of the briefs has also improved over time, including the data presentation, the depth of analyses and the focus of the recommendations, which have boosted UNICEF’s credibility and influence over national and subnational budgeting processes. Despite the strong foundation and positive momentum, some simple actions can improve the impact of budget briefs as a core UNICEF tool: Improve the efficiency of producing budget briefs by institutionalizing the process within the office and using simple templates and in-house databases of budget and other information that can be easily updated. Develop specific research questions to guide the background analysis leading to the development of budget briefs. Go beyond aggregate analysis of spending trends to better highlight the policy, programmatic and budgetary implications on child well-being. Strengthen internal coordination and ownership of the budget briefs by ensuring that sections and senior management play a more active role in their development and use.  Plan for and dedicate time for advocacy and other follow-up actions to increase the utility of budget briefs.
07 December 2020

Financing the recovery from COVID-19: Building education back better

This working paper discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on public spending on education services in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region. In addition to projecting likely spending trends in 2020 and 2021, it offers insights on how education budgets can be safeguarded amidst competing priorities and in the face of fiscal austerity. Key findings include: Government spending on education in ESA is expected to fall by 7 per cent, on average, in 2020. The education financing gap is predicted to expand by one third in the region compared to the pre-pandemic trajectory, which reflects lower government revenue as well as rising education costs. As many governments have borrowed to offset funding shortfalls, rising debt burdens will further threaten investment in education across ESA in the absence of debt relief agreements. Without massive external support, especially from international financial institutions (IFIs), the region’s pre-pandemic learning crisis will transform into a learning catastrophe, with severe long-term economic and development consequences. COVID-19 has compounded pre-existing challenges in education spending in many ESA countries, which include inequitable allocation of resources, inefficient spending, and poor budget transparency and accountability.   The paper calls on governments and development partners to action on many fronts: Position education at the center of national fiscal stimuli packages and annual budgets, alongside health, nutrition, social protection and WASH. Improve the prioritization and allocative efficiency of budgets within the education sector to support immediate needs. Ensure due attention to pre-primary education services in recovery plans. Aggressively advocate for greater external financial support for education, especially from the IFIs, while also linking debt relief to greater spending on education. Promote a holistic approach to investing in learning, which includes cash transfers and nutrition programs in addition to education.