This blog was written by Aline Coudouel, Ana Ocampo, and Paul Quarles van Ufford and originally posted by the World Bank here


Adaptive social protection is essential to tackle multifaceted vulnerabilities in the Sahel

A mutually reinforcing cycle of chronic poverty, economic exclusion, social marginalization, and frequent shocks drives fragile conditions throughout the Sahel region. As shocks due to climate change, rising food prices, and conflict increase in frequency and intensity, millions are unable to cope, recover, and rebuild. And as poverty and vulnerability become more pronounced, as does hunger and malnutrition, tackling shocks becomes more challenging every time.

Stronger social protection systems and scaled-up adaptive national safety net programs are a critical piece of building resilience in the Sahel, helping to reinforce the social contract, tackle the root causes of fragility and reducing the need to resort to humanitarian responses. Governments, development partners, and humanitarian actors have recognized the need for adaptive social protection (ASP) in the region. Making social protection more flexible and agile allows for more effective and efficient long-term resilience building. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, we –WFP, UNICEF, and the World Bank – have been increasingly working with governments in the Sahel to strengthen the adaptive dimensions of national social protection systems. We see opportunities to build on nascent social protection systems, make them more responsive to shocks, but also prioritize investments in human capital, which stand to drive economic inclusion, foster social cohesion and combat the cycle of fragility. We believe that working in partnership to support ASP will be fundamental to address fragility in the region.


A shared understanding and joint vision for Adaptive Social Protection in the Sahel

UNICEF, the World Bank and the World Food Programme have built a rich collaboration in the Sahel region recognizing that the expansion of ASP relies on social protection, disaster risk management, climate, and humanitarian actors coming together and tapping into each other’s expertise and networks. Government leadership, including its support for national safety net programs with shock-response components, has been critical in this agenda. Different mandates offer an opportunity for convergence of expertise around national systems and programs; and we understand that food security, nutrition, and poverty reduction priorities must be tackled in tandem, with social protection playing a critical role in the Sahel.

The convergence among agencies is, in the first place, built on joint diagnostics. For instance, we jointly conducted “stress tests” of national social protection systems, using a World Bank tool assessing the adaptability and scalability potential of existing systems. The three agencies jointly rolled out the tool in all countries in the Sahel, creating inclusive, multi-stakeholder dialogue opportunities around the tool and its results. This has allowed for aligned technical assistance and policy guidance to countries.

We have also worked to strengthen social registries in the region for expanded social protection coverage, improved selection of beneficiaries, and a more streamlined social protection response across actors.

With a shared understanding of opportunities and challenges for ASP in the Sahel, we developed a joint vision and strategy that not only facilitates alignment of technical support, but also provides a basis for advocacy and common messaging. As part of the Sahel Alliance, we work together on joint policy messages on ASP and principles for stronger convergence of support to national systems. The priority message for the Sahel is about the need to invest, including with domestic resources, in the coverage expansion of national safety net programs with robust adaptive dimensions.


Jointly addressing concrete challenges

Within a robust joint conceptual framework that articulates data and information, service delivery, institutional arrangements, and financing, our three institutions have developed complementary programs to operationalize our joint vision.

First there is the World Bank-managed Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Program (SASPP), a multi-donor trust fund, financed with contributions from Denmark (DANIDA), France (AFD), Germany (BMZ) and the United Kingdom (FCDO). Its objective is to support six Sahelian systems primarily to help vulnerable households adapt to the impacts of climate change and other covariate shocks. 

UNICEF and WFP are implementing a KfW/BMZ–financed Sahel Social Protection Joint Program in Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad. The program aims to strengthen national social protection systems and supports governments to deliver cash transfers to vulnerable households, using a “twin-track” approach. This means that, as much as possible, cash transfers are channelled through the government’s own delivery system (Track 1), but where government capacity is overstretched or where access is constrained, the program delivers cash transfers through partners outside the government system, including UN and NGO partner channels (Track 2).

The twin-track approach is an example of ensuring timely delivery of adaptive social protection while continuing to strengthen national systems and government leadership. This also applies to our joined contribution to the agenda of enhancing linkages between (adaptive) social protection and humanitarian cash assistance in the Sahel.

Going forward,  we will continue to support governments and build coalitions to ensure that adaptive social protection can be scaled up to support poor and vulnerable people and contribute to a more resilient, cohesive and prosperous Sahel.


Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Governance and coordination
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Adaptive social protection
  • Shock-responsive social protection
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Climate change
  • Humanitarian–social protection nexus
  • Burkina Faso
  • Chad
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's