Across the world, 385 million children are struggling to survive on less than US$1.90 a day, and more than 663 million – or 1 in 3 – are living in multidimensionally poor households. Social vulnerabilities, resulting from personal characteristics and societal dynamics such as age, disability, ethnicity and gender, further compound the impacts of poverty and deprivation. The implications of child poverty and vulnerability are felt most immediately by children themselves, but also profoundly by societies and economies as a whole.

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Social protection policies can help address the multifaceted nature of child poverty and improve children’s well-being, especially in the areas of education, health and nutrition. However, it is important to consider the gender-, age- and context-specific needs and vulnerabilities of children during all stages of the policy cycle. This issue of Policy in Focus presents a collection of 15 articles from leading scholars, researchers and policy practitioners, shedding light on the key challenges of promoting social protection programmes for children.

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Reflections on the International Conference on Universal Child Grants

Children’s Right to Social Protection in the Middle East and North Africa: An analysis of legal frameworks from a child-rights perspective

With over 91 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in the MENA region. Two fifths of the population are younger than 18, and 12 million of those are under the age of 5. Egypt has been experiencing accelerated population growth in recent years due to rising fertility rates. It is considered to have a medium level of human development, and is ranked 111th out of 188 countries. Many households are experiencing food insecurity due to increased inflation.

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Non-contributory social protection in the MENA region through a child and equity lens

Social protection is increasingly considered a development success story. At the same time, it still does too little to account for social differentiation and to address vulnerability, as opposed to poverty. Child sensitive social protection has gained considerable momentum, particularly in a developing country context, raising questions about its concept and practical implications. We argue that three types of vulnerabilities call for more tailored thinking about social protection for children and discuss implications for social protection interventions on the basis of case studies.

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This study aims to provide the Egyptian government with additional empirical evidence to inform the reform of its energy subsidy and social protection programs. In particular, the focus is on protecting the most vulnerable children from the impacts of subsidy cuts through a child cash transfer program financed by using a small part (10% or less) of the savings generated by subsidy cuts. The decision to focus on child cash transfers as the prime mitigating measure emanates from discussions with government officials.

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Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is a large-scale social protection intervention aimed at improving food security and stabilizing asset levels. The PSNP contains a mix of public works employment and unconditional transfers. It is a well-targeted program; however, several years passed before payment levels reached the intended amounts. The PSNP has been successful in improving household food security. However, children’s nutritional status in the localities where the PSNP operates is poor, with 48 percent of children stunted in 2012.

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Social protection is particularly important for children, in view of their higher levels of vulnerability compared to adults, and the role that social protection can play in ensuring adequate nutrition, access to and utilization of social services. While existing evidence shows that social protection programmes successfully address several dimensions of child well-being -often in an indirect way - a move towards a more "child sensitive" approach to social protection has recently been advocated at the highest level in the international development community.

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