Helping South Asia cope better with natural disasters: the role of social protection

Helping South Asia cope better with natural disasters: the role of social protection

Reviewing the role of World Bank post-disaster cash transfers in Asia

This article reviews major cash transfers to households as a mean of social protection in a number of Asian countries. Looking at Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Pakistan in particular, the author indicates the role which the World Bank has played as a post-disaster donor in those countries, noticing the positive impact of this support on short-term food security and long-term recovery. Furthermore, the paper finds that:

  • this kind of support is usually demanded by client countries and complements other relief and reconstruction efforts
  • such support could be geared for greater impact in future by the use of a best-practice toolkit and a right-on-time technical assistance facility
  • similarly, its integration in emergency preparedness and capacity-building for implementing agencies can result in more efficient delivery

In addition, the document presents the following lessons learned from the experiences of Asian countries under study:
  • the form of income support should be cash unless there is evidence that food markets are disrupted
  • timely cash support should follow for a limited period for most households, but that should be  stretched into the medium term for the more vulnerable
  • the amount of support should be fixed to be adequate for subsistence but not so large as to jeopardise work incentives or cause inflation
  • eligibility criteria would ideally be pre-defined and different from those used in non-disaster settings
  • income support would ideally be coordinated and delivered by one or more of the regular safety-net or social security programmes with experience in handling cash transfers
  • management information systems and grievance address systems could be prepared in advance, and thought given to impact evaluation
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