Submitted by Alina Karli
8 Apr 2024

Linking Nepal’s social protection programmes with anticipatory action

Nepal has a diverse portfolio of social protection programmes. These include social assistance to poor individuals and households; social services for groups with special needs; social insurance to protect people against shocks; and social equity to protect people against discrimination or abuse.

For a low-income country, the government’s budgetary commitment towards ensuring its citizens’ well-being is remarkable, with 11.3 per cent of its total budget invested in such programmes in the last fiscal year (according to government figures). Despite this investment, social protection programmes and their supporting systems are highly fragmented: there are more than 16 different programmes, with over 90 schemes within them, spread across different ministries and line agencies.

To address this, the government has endorsed the Integrated National Social Protection Framework, which aims to coordinate these programmes more effectively. Similarly, there has been a realization among the government and non-government agencies that such programmes, which cover large numbers of vulnerable people, should be used for humanitarian actions as well.

At the same time, humanitarian organizations, including the Danish Red Cross, have found creative ways to use these programmes for anticipatory action and disaster-response activities. As a co-lead of the Shock-Responsive Social Protection Working Group, the Danish Red Cross has brought together other humanitarian organizations to support the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Authority in developing a guideline for shock-responsive social protection. This is currently being finalized.

Making use of existing social-protection databases

In 2021, the Danish Red Cross and the Nepal Red Cross Society transferred multi-purpose cash assistance to vulnerable groups who had been affected by floods in western Nepal. They did this by using the financial, information management, grievance and communication infrastructure within Nepal’s Social Security Allowance programme. This demonstrated how the government’s social protection systems can be used to provide cash assistance at scale in a cost-effective and time-efficient way.

Since then, the Danish Red Cross has been exploring ways to reach more vulnerable and risk-exposed people with its activities, by using social-protection registers other than the Social Security Allowance programme. This included a database-mapping exercise at the municipal level, the results from which were shared with municipal authorities during a workshop to explore the feasibility of using these databases for planning anticipatory action and response activities.

These two exercises have shown that, in addition to federal-level databases, local governments have rich and diverse databases that contain data from multiple sectors, such as civil registration, livelihoods, health, education and disasters. These databases can be used to pre-identify beneficiaries for targeted anticipatory action, based on their vulnerability and exposure to hazards. Designing and planning anticipatory actions based on existing databases will not only an efficient use of resources; it will also help to ensure that anticipatory action becomes an institutionalized and sustainable approach in Nepal.

As an example, the health sector – a core service provided by local governments – is often disrupted in the event of a disaster. This can result in essential services, such as pre-natal and ante-natal care, or immunization for newborns, being unavailable for a time.  There is a critical need to design anticipatory actions to ensure the continuity of these services. Local government units in Nepal have strong mechanisms for delivering health services, including regularly updated databases, trained health-service providers and established financing mechanisms. These provide a strong foundation for designing health-related anticipatory actions ahead of a hazard.

Notably, significant investment is underway in Nepal to develop a comprehensive national identification system – and there are ambitions to link this with relevant social protection programmes, including the Integrated National Social Protection Framework. The Danish Red Cross will seek to inform policies and guidelines for this system, drawing on evidence from the two exercises that explored how these databases can also be used for anticipatory action and disaster response.

For more outcomes and lessons from the workshop, read the full report or the briefing.

For further information, contact Alina Karki, senior social protection program officer, Danish Red Cross.

Photo: Ranju Sunar, an elderly Dalit woman stores grains under the tarpaulins, inside what remains of her house after it was destroyed by the 2021 unseasonal floods. © Danish Red Cross