The webinar "Adaptive social protection and urban resilience: Developments in cities of Mozambique and Madagascar" organized by IPC-IG, WFP Mozambique Country Office and WFP Regional Bureau Johannesburg, and hosted by on 3rd November, 2022, was framed within the context of an ongoing project funded by the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), “Fostering resilience through preparedness of people in urban areas”. The Project is currently working with national and local governments, the municipalities, to redefine urban vulnerability and define criteria for humanitarian response and through adaptation of the current mainstream SP schemes.

The Webinar counted on the participation of four panellists:

  • Mr. Abdulremana Chaca, the Director of Resilience of Pemba Municipality, Mozambique,
  • Mr Nuno Remane, the Director of DiMSUR and
  • Mr Mandresy Rakotoarison, the Director of International Cooperation/Communication of the Municipality of Antanarivo, Madagascar Municipality
  • Mr Ihaja L. Rajaonarison, the Director of Project Coordination of the Municipality of Antanarivo, Madagascar Municipality

Arianna Francioni, Programme Policy Officer and Regional Urban Preparedness Project Coordinator at WFP Regional Office for Southern Africa acted as Moderator of the discussion. The presentation slides and the webinar’s recording can be accessed for detailed information. 

Framework for the discussion

The southern Africa region is highly susceptible to the effects of climate change and characterized by low economic growth rates, high levels of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. The region is facing a steady increase of the urban population living in precarious and hazardous conditions, with insufficient access to basic services and infrastructures. This regional pre-existing sensitivity has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting in a 7% contraction of the economic growth of the Southern Africa Region during 2020 and disproportionately affecting the highly informalized sub-regional economies, thus pushing even more people into extreme poverty.  The region has not been spared the current effects of the global food and fuels prices increase.

As the COVID-19 crisis has taken hold, policy makers have been reminded of the value of having strong social protection systems in place that are capable of reaching affected households with immediate assistance. At the same time, the crisis shined a light on both the enabling and constraining factors that affect governments’ ability to leverage social protection systems to address large, covariate shocks of this sort.

Let’s define ASP: a dedicated area of focus within the wider field of social protection, examining and identifying the ways in which social protection systems can be prepared and enhanced ahead of large covariate shocks like COVID-19 to build the resilience of poor and vulnerable households—before, during, and after such shocks occur.

Through the provision of transfers and services to the poorest and most vulnerable households, adaptive social protection directly supports their capacity to prepare for, cope with, and adapt to the shocks they face. Over the long term, by supporting these three capacities, ASP can provide a pathway to a more resilient state for households that may otherwise lack the resources to move out of chronically vulnerable situations.

The COVID 19 crisis, as the current global food and prices crisis, has highlighted the need to :

  • Modify traditional targeting methods to factor in household vulnerability to shocks; integrate and layer programming among poor and vulnerable households in “hot-spot” areas of recurrent shocks;
  • Invest in delivery systems and contingency planning to enable the increased responsiveness of programs after a shock hits;
  • Expand coverage of social registries, with a focus on the inclusion of high-risk households;
  • Preposition risk financing to ensure funding is readily available to fund response programs in a timely manner;
  • Invest in fostering collaboration and coordination with non-traditional but essential partners across government—including those involved disaster risk management and climate change adaptation— as well as nongovernment, humanitarian actors.

Municipality of Pemba, Mozambique – Director of Resilience

Pemba is a city situated along the Indian Ocean Coast of Mozambique. Its climate is characterized by high annual precipitation volumes and the terrain by extensive flat zones, often occupied by informal settlements with high population density. Over 50 per cent of the city is up to 30 meters above sea level, and most of these areas is under high risk of inundation (see Figure 1).

These factors increase the vulnerability of Pemba in facing climate change and natural hazards. Until June 2022, Pemba’s had a total population of 385.255 inhabitants, including internally displaced persons fleeing from terrorist attacks in the northern parts of Cabo Delgado Province.

Figure 1: Damage of floods and initiatives of Pemba to build resilience of the city

Source: Presentation at Webinar


The most efficient strategy to increase resilience of Pemba refers to cohesion policies, such as to support job creation, economic growth and sustainable development and improve quality of life of the people. At Municipal level, Pemba has a Municipal Contingency Plan, the Emergency Standard Guide, which includes organization processes to establish transit centres or resettling zones when a shock occurs, and the Vulnerability Maps of the city, detailing the types of risks affecting each zone, what method of construction should be adopted to guarantee resilience of the structures, among others.

Actions in course

  1. The Water Supply and Sanitation Infrastructure Administration (AIAS) and Municipal Council of Pemba are working on a city drainage plan with support from the Dutch Embassy
  2. An online platform for inter-sectorial dialogue at city level was created to link partners and the communities as the city aims to govern with the people
  3. There is Multisector Committee of the Municipal Council connected with external partners, academy and other relevant sectors linked to resilience to provide more contribution at Municipal level
  4. The Energy Transition Plan is being elaborated, as is the Urbanization Structuring Plan, known as PEU
  5. With support from MAISPEMBA, project funded by the EU, an urban rehabilitation project of the Municipal Garden
  6. Early warning system rehabilitation with local DRM committees with an aim to act towards the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030
  7. Food for work programme, by WFP, involving displaced families living with host families, and other vulnerable groups

It is clear the value that municipal governments can bring to the discussion on adaptative social protection. There are some structures and elements already in place, such as the established emergency and contingency plan that can announce and deliver a swift response on urban territory. Secondly, the level of detail put into municipality vulnerability assessment and mapping within the urban boundaries is important. There is already some work in identifying where the most vulnerable households can be found in Pemba, in vision of designing an eventual horizontal expansion of the social protection system. But also, something that came across very clear in Mr. Chaca’s presentation, is how building resilience is a multi-faceted and requires a multi-faceted approach. Not only social assistance to vulnerable households and IDP families is key to help them meet their most basic and essential needs, but also another series of actions that is being put in place such as intervening on the infrastructural network of the urban area, on social inclusion, on information and a platform where stakeholders can communicate and coordinate with each other  and finally the energy and sustainability aspect. This brings attention to the fact that in the goal of delivering adaptative social protection policy makers should think of an ensemble of policies / joint delivery of assistance and services that aim to enhance the human capital and patrimony of knowledge and capacity to cope of the population in terms of awareness and social inclusion.

Municipality of Antanarivo – Director of International Cooperation & Communication and Director of Project Coordination

Around 45 to 55% of Antanarivo’s terrain consists of marshlands. The city can be divided into two areas, the lower areas where suburbs mainly are, and the high areas on the top of mountains or hills where the terrain is steep. Waste collection is one of the main challenges faced by the city, where only up to 67% of the waste is collected. It is affecting water evacuations, normal operations in lower parts of the city, among other fronts. Waste tax collection is currently very low which is an important issue as it is one of the main income sources for the Municipality. The city is currently restructuring and digitalizing systems for tax collection.

The Municipality has its own DRM department and local emergency units work in the emergency responses across the city neighbourhoods. The city has about 1.2 million inhabitants divided into 292 neighbourhoods. It has a contingency and emergency response plan which were elaborated in 2020, when the new administration took office. Since then, the Municipality also prepared an urban vulnerability assessment and disaster-risk reduction plan. The COVID-19 pandemic had massive consequences in Antanarivo in terms of urban poverty, with major effects in food security (see Figure 2).

Figure 2:  COVID-19 implications in Antanarivo

Source: Presentation at Webinar

Among responses adopted to the COVID-19 crisis, the following measures were included:

  • Census of vulnerable groups, later supported by the WFP through the development of a census software.
  • Distribution of basic goods and social safety nets with the central government
  • Support to the homeless
  • Elaboration of contingency plan to approach partners (World Bank - contingent emergency response component, AFD, UNDP)
  • Cash transfers: UNDP, Local Development Fund (an entity affiliated to Prime Minister)

The availability of data to better manage responses was seen as crucial and is among the main lessons learned from the COVID-19 emergency for the Municipality. Reliable and analytical information on people, such as their location, needs to be available to inform the response. Also, emergency stock and funds are needed to avoid delays in emergency responses and it is important to have in place financing procedures with partners to be able to receive funds for emergency responses on a timely manner. Lastly, the Municipality also observed that the people affected by the crisis adopted negative coping strategies such as theft or prostitution due to their inability to respect lockdown measures, given their precarious housing conditions and urgent food needs.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Antanarivo also deals with frequent occurrence of tropical storms and cyclones, which have large destructive and poverty-inducing potential in the city (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Cyclone implications in Antanarivo

Source: Presentation at Webinar

Responses that are adopted by the city in response to recent cyclones include:

  • Temporary shelters (stadiums, venues, churches)
  • Logistical support from NGOs (IFRC, UNICEF)
  • Census of the people inside sites with the support of WFP
  • Medical and Vaccination sites at major shelters with the WHO
  • Cash transfers:
    • Government: « Tosika fameno »
    • UNDP: Social safety nets

In 2022, the experience with occurrence of cyclones provided some insights concerning areas for potential improvement in emergency responses. First, having a database on the population is crucial to target interventions. Second, it is important to improve communication and coordination with regional and national authorities to increase efficiency of responses; there is a necessity of established partnerships with facilitated administrative procedures because every hour counts (Private sector, NGOs, Int. Org.). Third, the city needs to improve preparedness to avoid overloaded shelters, insufficient food, lack of sanitation, confined spaces prone to spread of COVID-19. Finally, it is important to make use of new technology, e.g., smartphone, tablet, for faster, real time and efficient crisis management.

As final remark, it was highlighted that urban planning must be strengthened and should be innovative enough to limit slums, and protect citizens against hazards such as flooding, landslides. Poverty is one of the aggravating conditions of the risks that people face in the city. Also, migration needs to be seen as a key component of urban development and planning, and the city needs to reserve funds to face inaccessibility to normal sources of income.

Antanarivo’s participation shed light on the importance of community-based organizations as a link to the reality of the ground, to work as a tool to gain confidence of the people and to validate targeting mechanisms and data that are gathered on a higher scale. Another aspect is that data gathered and organized on wider scale, systematic base and digitalized manner is very necessary, and not only in an ad-hoc methodology, in the aftermath of shocks, but through the expansion or establishment of a social registry that could also rank vulnerability levels of families. Local emergency units at the fokotany have the knowledge of the people living within their areas, however, all these data need to be collected and ranked through a level of vulnerability through a very big exercise that the national and local governments are about to undertake. The aspect of strengthening coordination is quite necessary. For example, in the aftermath of Ana cyclone in Antanarivo, resources were available to disburse assistance to beneficiaries, however, according to regulations they could only be disbursed when they were going back to their dwellings. But they could not go back because dwellings were no longer in good conditions to welcome them. So there was a delay in the possibility to make transfers to assist families due to lack of coordination in the sense of rehabilitating and restoring their dwellings.  

DiMSUR – Director

The Disaster-Risk Management, Sustainability and Urban Resilience (DiMSUR) is a regional institution that promotes regional resilience and sustainability, and whose work focuses on climate change adaptation, DRM and urban resilience areas. Its creation was facilitated by UN-Habitat in cooperation with the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

The CityRAP Tool is a participatory resilience planning methodology developed by the DiMSUR in collaboration with UN Habitat. It includes a set of training exercises and activities targeting municipal authorities, communities and local stakeholders and seeks to identify the city’s resilience building priorities, transform them into projects to mobilise funds for implementation. The process of applying the Tool are meant to last from three to four months and is divided into four phases, as seen in Figure 4. The final output of the CityRAP process is a City Resilience Framework for Action, which is a plan considering different future timeframes to help the city set a strategy to mobilizing funds and implementing resilience-improving projects.

Figure 4: CityRAP Methodology

Source: Presentation at Webinar

In 2020, with financing from the Adaptation Fund, DiMSUR started implementation of an ongoing Project, the “Building Urban Climate Resilience in South Eastern Africa”, involving cities in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and the Union of Comoros (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Building Urban Climate Resilience in South Eastern Africa

Source: Presentation at Webinar

It is important to have platforms such as DiMSUR to share knowledge, for entities to bring attention of governments to issues and real problems of the countries and the region. Informality and the informal sector are highly contributing to the GDP of the region but at the same time are almost invisible to the social safety nets of the countries. In Mozambique, for example, the social safety net for self-employed is contributory but they cannot afford to contribute and remain uninsured. Mr Nuno highlighted that governments need to be engaged and communities need to be included and participate in identifying and working on solving these issues. Governments of the region need to have a strategy to formalize the economy in place that explains the advantages of being formal. Many times people in Africa do not see these advantages, and can even more from formal to informal sectors as they see quick wins along the way. It is difficult, when the majority of the economy is informal, to organize your message around benefits of formalization. It is not only responsibility of international agencies or foreign donors, but national governments have the central role of facilitating delivery of this message and creation of awareness. Without governments it is difficult to create ownership, and without it, it becomes very difficult to create awareness, and for the issue to become a national priority, and it is likely that the awareness concerning the advantages of formalization will not be strong enough.  

The vulnerability assessment is the terrain where the DRM infrastructure part and social protection and poverty analysis can meet. For this, indicators used in these assessments are key. In Pemba, some parts of the city have informal settlements, other are more exposed to hazards for being on the coast, and being prone to sea level rise and floods. Poverty is a central aspect of vulnerability in the city. Most of the people living in informal settlements do not have the financial means to afford other type of housing, in better serviced parts of the city. As a consequence, they end up in areas where prices to settle are very low, and where they able to build their dwellings. Another important factor adding to vulnerability is that families very often do not meet basic requirements for construction techniques that would ensure a resilient infra-structure due to their inability to afford it. These families are not only seen as vulnerable due to having settled in these areas but also due to their precarious housing and other specific needs. Pemba Municipality visits the vulnerable families as a way to map their specific needs, and be able to mobilize the resources that are needed to address them. These efforts go a long way in informing the municipality in terms of who are these vulnerable households, what are their needs, what can be done to address them and what the Municipality itself can do to ensure welfare of those families.


Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Adaptive social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Climate change
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Resilience
  • Madagascar
  • Mozambique
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's