As we approach the sombre milestone of a year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing conflict continues to cause widespread disruption and displacement. How has Ukraine’s social protection system responded to the escalating and shifting shape of people’s needs? And to what extent has the global humanitarian response aligned with existing systems? STAAR-deployed expert Thomas Byrnes provides insights from his time in post.

In the face of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the ability of the government to meet the needs of affected individuals and communities is being greatly challenged. As an expert deployed by the FCDO-funded STAAR Facility (Social Protection Technical Assistance, Advice, and Resources), I had the opportunity to explore the current level of alignment between humanitarian cash assistance and government social protection systems in Ukraine.

More specifically, as part of my role in providing technical support to the humanitarian response and the Ukraine Cash Working Group (CWG), I was asked to produce a series of four papers for the CWG task team on Social Protection. These papers include assessments of specific social protection programmes and systems.  As well as an overview of the current state of alignment between Humanitarian Cash and Government Social protection programmes – with a focus on identifying who is being covered and who is not. Findings were originally written up in November 2022, and while the situation on the ground is evolving, the insights and reflections below still present a useful snapshot.

An overview of social protection in Ukraine

Ukraine has a mature social protection system that aims to cover around 22 million people through a combination of contributory and non-contributory instruments. Despite years of reform, there are still issues and weaknesses within the system, including coverage, inclusion, benefit adequacy, and local budgeting. The social assistance programmes in Ukraine are primarily residual safety nets that offer short-term benefits to narrow categorical recipient groups, driven by the perception that benefits foster dependency and the weight of benefits on state budgets. Enrolment in the social protection system primarily refers to having a categorical legal status that qualifies one for the system, such as being a national, resident, or pensioner with a minimum number of years of contribution.

In response to the Russian invasion in 2022, Ukraine has received increased direct budgetary support from international sources, such as the US, Germany, Denmark, the UK, and international financial institutions. Social protection payments have been identified as the second priority after the defence budget in the wartime national budget 2023/2023. As a result of this international support, Ukraine was able to make social protection payments to everyone legally entitled to them as of November 2022.

Despite this support, poverty rates in Ukraine remain high. Economic forecasts for Ukraine are also bleak, with the IMF predicting that Ukraine's GDP will fall by 10-35%, and the EBRD predicts a 20% drop. It is uncertain whether the Ukrainian state will have the long-term financial capacity to fund the necessary expansion of social assistance programmes without significant ongoing external support.

It is important for the Ukrainian government to carefully consider the potential need for the expansion of social assistance programmes and to plan accordingly in order to ensure that the necessary support is in place for those who are most vulnerable. At the same time, it will also be necessary to identify and secure sources of funding that will enable the country to sustain these programmes in the longer term. The Russian invasion has had a profound impact on the economy and society of Ukraine; addressing the resulting rise in poverty will require a coordinated and comprehensive approach.

Alignment between Humanitarian and Social Protection Programmes in Ukraine

To ensure systematic analysis, I looked at linkages across each of the three typical ‘building blocks’ of social protection and humanitarian systems - policy, programme design and administration/delivery.


In terms of policy, humanitarian actors have been examining the scope for supporting the ‘horizontal expansion’ of existing social protection programmes by extending coverage to those newly in need as a result of the conflict. In this case, it became apparent that the government could fully fund all its obligations and expand programmes as demand increased. However, while funding for social assistance entitlements has been maintained, funding for staffing and data management support services has been deprioritised. In response, organisations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and Corus International have provided funding and technical support to the Ministry of Social Policy (MOSP) to enable ongoing systems maintenance and development, and to make the systems more usable for humanitarian actors.

In terms of governance and coordination of humanitarian and social protection programmes, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator/Resident Coordinator (HC/RC) proposed that humanitarian and development actors coordinate their work through a government working group on social protection. To date, the MOSP has been coordinating bilaterally with actors and has not convened this group. Furthermore, there has been an ongoing transition in the management of various social protection programmes, which has added to the coordination challenges.

Programme Design

Although there has been no coordination or alignment on programme design elements for multi-purpose cash assistance at the CWG level, there has been significant bilateral coordination and interaction between the MOSP and humanitarian actors. For example, the transfer value for multi-purpose cash assistance (MPC) is very close to the Government IDP housing support rate. However, the MPC rate was endorsed by the humanitarian community, and the MOSP later changed the IDP housing support rate to be similar. This could be because the MOSP may have used the same methodology as the humanitarian community to calculate the rate, but as the MOSP has not shared the methodology for calculating their rate or what basic needs it is intended to cover, it is impossible to say for certain.

Another important aspect of programme design is determining the frequency and duration of cash transfers. The MOSP's IDP housing assistance programme provides assistance as long as a family is registered as internally displaced, while MPC programmes are meant to only provide short-term relief and typically last for an average of three months. This leads to a lack of alignment between the duration of the two programmes.

Furthermore, programme design should also consider the eligibility criteria and qualifying conditions for receiving assistance. Initially, most humanitarian aid was directed towards IDPs, leading to overlap between government and humanitarian responses. However, as the response has progressed, assistance is increasingly going to those who did not flee conflict zones and are not covered by a dedicated government social protection programme.


Some humanitarian actors had access to the government's IDP database at the start of the crisis in 2022, allowing them to target households swiftly. However, there were two major drawbacks to this strategy. The first was that the government's data authorisation received from the family during registration only allowed the data to be shared with UN organizations and the Red Cross movement. This restriction prevented non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) from using it, as well as UN agencies from exchanging data with their implementing partners and third-party monitors. Another issue is that the data could not be triangulated with other MOSP data since authorization to use that data had not been obtained.

To solve this issue, the MOSP created an International Organizations component into its online eDopomoga platform. Because data privacy rules prohibit the release of individually identifiable data without the informed consent of the resident, eDopomoga's International Organizations component is needed to target humanitarian aid using the Unified Social Register. Persons living/staying in Ukraine's temporarily occupied, de-occupied, or active hostilities zones, as well as those identified in the Unified Information Database on Internally Displaced Persons, may use the system to seek financial assistance from international organizations and provide the necessary consent.

This consent to share data and request assistance is registered in the MOSP Unified Social Registry, which is part of their wider Unified Information System of the Social Spiral (UISSS). Using this consent, the MOSP may use data from the Unified Social Registry and the UISSS software capabilities to send possible beneficiary lists to agencies based on the criteria provided by the agency to the MOSP.


Ukraine's humanitarian and social protection programmes are complicated and dynamic, with financing, coordination, programme design, and data management issues. In the Policy pillar, while funding for social assistance entitlements has been maintained, funding for staffing and data management support services has been deprioritised. The MOSP has been interacting bilaterally with players and has not yet created a government working group on social protection. The continuing transition of management of various social protection programmes and the involvement of multiple ministries has also presented obstacles. In the Programme Design pillar, the MOSP and humanitarian actors have coordinated information but not programme design elements for multi-purpose monetary support. Humanitarian and government cash transfer initiatives have different transfer values and procedures and lack integrated data systems and de-duplication mechanisms.

In the immediate term, the government needs to collaborate with humanitarian actors to improve coordination and align transfer values and methods. This might involve forming a government social protection working group and increasing MOSP-humanitarian communication.

In the medium run, data sharing and de-duplication should be improved through shared data systems and processes. It's also crucial to invest in staffing and data management support services and strengthen Ukraine's social protection programs. To shift to a state-led response, new social protection programs must be developed as the country moves from emergency response to recovery and reconstruction. Transition planning and conversations about the costs of lifesaving shock-response actions and their eventual acceptance by the government and development partners are vital for humanitarian cash and social protection linkages.




The STAAR facility implemented by DAI Global UK Ltd and funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The views expressed in this blog are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily represent FCDO’s own views or policies.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
  • Programme design
  • Programme implementation
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Shock-responsive social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Humanitarian–social protection nexus
  • Ukraine
The views presented here are the author's and not's