Climate disasters and social protection

We actually need to look around the world to learn how countries develop social protection for climatic disasters


Jazib Mumtaz October 03, 2022
The writer is a PhD scholar and works as researcher for a think tank

S ocial protection programmes are designed and implemented by a state to protect the vulnerable from food insecurity and malnutrition; provide access to better healthcare and education facilities; and manage unprecedented economic shocks.

As per a World Bank report in 2015, about 25% population in lowincome and lower-middle-income countries is covered under social safety nets. Such programmes have lifted 69 million from absolute poverty and 97 million from relative poverty. The impact of climate change has increased the vulnerability of an individual or a household to malnutrition, food insecurity and poverty. The link between social protection programmes and climate adaptation has become important as both work to minimise risks and vulnerabilities to survival and livelihood.

The implementation of social protection programme has now become imminent to support households affected by climate change events in Pakistan. Pakistan launched its flagship social protection programme — Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) — in 2008. The objective of the programme was to provide direct cash transfers in short term and achieve the country’s redistributive goals in the long term. In the current climatic disaster, BISP has played a crucial role: cash assistance of Rs25,000 has been provided to each of the flood-affected family, with flood assistance having covered a million beneficiaries through Rs24 billion disbursement as of now.

But while in the age of climate-induced disasters, social protection programmes need to be evolved for an effective response, the BISP has remained a conventional social protection programme. We actually need to look around the world to learn how countries develop social protection for climatic disasters. The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters. On average, 20 typhoons strike the country every year, affecting millions of people and their livelihoods. The Philippine government thus prioritises provision of social protection. The Philippine’s Development Plan 2011-16 assures disaster-sensitive social protection, employment and income support to affected people. In 2009, the Philippine government initiated Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (ILEEP) meant to provide livelihoods and immediate social protection to vulnerable and displaced workers and survivors of calamities.

The Philippines was struck by a powerful typhoon in 2013 which killed around 7,000 people, affected the livelihoods of 6 million workers, and destroyed significant infrastructure. In the aftermath of the disaster, ILEEP was swiftly activated: short-term employment was provided in infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects, including rebuilding roads and shelters, clearance of debris, unclogging canals, resource management, and other work. The goal was to provide social protection and income support, and rebuild communities. It was ensured that beneficiaries were paid regional minimum wage covered with accidental insurance through government institutions.

The programme had a considerable impact on people’s lives as 90% beneficiaries had their incomes increased, and 45% were able to generate employment out of the livelihood projects. Climate change has become a stark reality that can be seen through erratic weather patterns, abnormal rainfall and flash floods. The floods in Pakistan are biblical in nature. As per the OCHA report on flood damages, 12,700km of roads have been destroyed, 0.8 million housing units have completely washed away, 1,600 human lives lost and almost a million livestock perished.

These climatic disasters require an integrated multipronged social protection programme that should protect income, health and livelihood. The government should redesign conventional social protection programmes to prepare for an effective response to climatic disasters. The government should set aside a provision in the annual budget under the Ministry of Climate Change for integrated social protection for climate-induced disasters.

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