European Commission - SPaN (2019) Case Study: Nepal

The Nepal case study was produced as part of the “Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus” (SPaN). It is the outcome of an initiative jointly led by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and Directorate- General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) with the support of DEVCO Unit 04 and the MKS programme. 

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About the Case Study

Following the earthquake in April 2015, many humanitarian actors in Nepal embarked on cash transfer programmes (CTPs) to meet the needs of the affected population. Cash was recognised as a modality in the Strategic Objectives of the Flash Appeal towards recovery and resilience, while more than two-thirds of people affected identified cash as an immediate need. Humanitarian CTPs were an appropriate modality, given the challenges in delivering in-kind aid and since markets were generally well functioning. Approximately 10% of the response in the first six months was provided through CTPs. This included emergency cash grants by the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs for cremation costs, death of a family member, fully and partially damaged houses, and winter relief. CTPs were also implemented by international agencies through parallel systems, for shelter and other basic needs; and support provided through the country’s social protection programmes. Other humanitarian actors working independently delivered cash within a similar timeframe but not at such a significant scale. Nepal had a well-established social protection system providing a range of cash based social transfers to vulnerable groups. The Child Grant was one such programme, initially targeting all under-five children in the remote Karnali region and to Dalit households in the rest of the country. Other social cash transfers targeted old-age, single women and widows, people with disabilities and ethnic minority groups. These are financed by the government and managed by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA) and delivered through local government channels. 

In response to the devastating earthquakes in 2015, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provided technical and financial support to the Government of Nepal (GoN) to develop and implement an Emergency Cash Transfer Programme (ECTP), to support basic consumption needs of vulnerable households and act as a catalyst to strengthen and expand social protection in Nepal. The ECTP provided emergency cash transfers to vulnerable groups in earthquake-affected areas using the existing social assistance system in two phases. In the first phase, cash transfers were provided to beneficiaries of existing social assistance programmes, including elderly, widows, Dalit children, people with disability and marginalised ethnic groups. During the second phase, cash transfers were provided to all children under the age of five. The transfers were accompanied with behavioural change messages, targeted to both specific vulnerable groups and specific sectors, in order to link them to wider relief and recovery efforts. The ECTP was one of the largest emergency response programmes in the country. In total, over USD 24 million were distributed to vulnerable groups during the two phases of the programme. UNICEF was interested to reform the GoN’s Child Grant, having supported a pilot expansion of this programme to all children under five (i.e. to non-Dalit households) in Karnali district, and this approach provided an entry point for broader discussions to improve the social protection system. 

The ECTP was implemented in two phases. Phase 1 had the objective of helping families fulfil immediate needs by providing an unconditional cash top-up of NPR 3 000 (approximately USD 30) to all existing social transfer beneficiaries in the most affected areas. Over 434 000 people (93% of existing beneficiaries) were reached in 19 districts, over a four-month period. Phase 2 was designed to support the recovery needs of beneficiaries a year after the earthquake in the 11 most affected districts, but the targeting criteria was modified in order to focus specifically on the affected families with children under the age of five years  It provided a single cash transfer of NPR 4 000.00 (USD 40) to all children under-five years of age in the 11 most-affected districts. It aimed to provide top up payments to children already enrolled in the Child Grant programme, and support enrolment of other children under five (both Dalit and non-Dalit) into the programme. Transfers were provided for up to two children per mother, consistent with the existing government scheme. In Phase 2 the programme reached over 300 000 children below the age of five.  The ECTP had an explicit longer-term objective of supporting expansion of the Child Grant to all children under five and strengthening underlying systems to build the resilience of populations to future shocks.

The primary objective of the ECTP was to help particularly vulnerable population groups, including children, affected by the earthquakes to meet their most immediate household expenditure needs and increase their resilience to negative outcomes. In the long-term, the programme was intended to act as a catalyst for successive expansions and improvement of the Child Grant programme and set the foundation of a strengthened national social protection system that would be able to respond to future shocks. The independent third-party assessment has found that the ECTP reached over 90% of its targeted groups of the most vulnerable, during both rounds and that the programme was successful in helping vulnerable households meet the basic needs of their children and improving overall food security among those socially and economically vulnerable. Furthermore, the successful implementation of the programme using the existing social security system has been a key catalyst for the successive expansion and improvement of the Child Grant programme and is an example of a good humanitarian-development nexus for strengthening the national social protection system. The evaluation of the ECTP also highlighted that a shock response mechanism through national systems must link with the coordination systems for humanitarian action, to ensure gaps are filled.


UNICEF developed a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation plan for the ECTP, embedded in the programme design from the start of implementation, including real-time process monitoring and monitoring of outcomes. Monitoring activities were handled by UNICEF, MoFAGA representatives, the Nepal Participatory Action Network (NEPAN), Nepal Scouts and DDC staff. An independent sample-based postdistribution monitoring exercise gathered information on coverage, processes, and perceptions for Phase 1, as well as on how the cash was used by beneficiaries. The programme tried to implement a voluntary SMS system for beneficiaries to confirm receipt of payments and provide their feedback, however few beneficiaries reported using the SMS system. UNICEF maintained a centralised management information system to track district-wise progress in implementation. Data informed conversations with DDC staff to discuss solutions to challenges, such as delays in distribution and reporting.

The evaluation concluded that a universal child grant operating at a national scale would considerably boost potential for scaling up assistance at times of shock, as a higher proportion of the general population would already be covered. The GoN has committed to expand the Child Grant programme to reach all children underfive in a phased manner and initiated the expansion in a few select districts. UNICEF is currently working with DOCR to support the preparedness and operational capacity of social security allowances for future disaster response. The World Bank is investing in a social registry to improve both social protection registration and future shock response, including enhancing the civil registration system and linking this with social transfer programmes. In regard to the European Union, although a specific programme on Social Protection has not been implemented, the issue is embedded as a relevant indicator within the EU’s budget support actions and the nutrition Programme under the Sustainable Rural Development Sector. In this context, the following initiatives deserve attention. The State Building Contract for Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation – NEARR, which supported, from 2016, the recovery and reconstruction of the country through EUR 105 million, with EUR 90 million effectively transferred to the Government. Within this wide action, over 200 000 households affected by the earthquake were financially supported. The Nepal Food Security Monitoring System (NeKSAP), established in 2009, which aimed at collecting and analysing food security information to support authorities in their efforts to prevent food insecurity and enabling timely intervention during emergencies. The system, jointly operated by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and WFP, under the guidance of the National Planning Commission, was funded by the EU from 2012, and it was handed over to the Government of Nepal in 2016. The Porter’s Project – Remote Access Operation, which was established to cope with the earthquakes of 2015, and jointly operated with WFP. The Project gave employment to 35 812 porters in order to rehabilitate trails or to carry relief goods to remote areas.

Technical reports
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