The webinar Unbundling the delivery chain: practical examples of linkages between humanitarian cash transfers and social protection from across the globe took place on 16 July 2020 and aimed to present real life, practical examples of linkages between humanitarian cash assistance and social protection approaches at different stages of delivery, highlighting successes and challenges from around the globe.

The discussion was moderated by Lois Austin, with guest speakers Juliet Lang (OCHA), Larissa Pelham (Oxfam) John Meyer (CARE USA), Louisa Lippi (UNICEF), Juan Gonzalo Jaramillo Mejia (WFP), and Karin Seyfert from Oxford Policy Management as a discussant.

Watch the full recording for more examples and access the ppt slides for more information.

Karin began the discussion by explaining an overarching framework, developed by SPACE, outlining four different ways in which social protection and humanitarian cash assistance can be linked: independent delivery systems; aligned and coordinated delivery systems; combining elements of delivery systems; and response through national systems. These four options can be used at different stages of delivery chain – at policy, design and operations stages. Karin further explained that context, capacity, feasibility and other factors will define which linkage options can be used at different delivery chain stages. So how do these work out real life settings?


At the policy level


  • In Vanuatu, Oxfam has delivered cash assistance to disaster-affected families and, to finance the response, they established a multi-donor trust fund with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The platform, currently supported by the governments of New Zealand and Australia and the Vanuatu Business Council, can disburse funds for humanitarian responses, as well as formal and informal social protection systems.
  • In Madagascar, WFP, UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, and the EU established a similar platform, where a pooled fund is supporting government response to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. The programme funded by this platform has already reached over 120,000 households. This modality has been used in many countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Philippines, Fiji, Sri Lanka and Ecuador.


  • Lesson learned: Strengthening coordination among humanitarian and social protection actors, while crucial, can be quite challenging in practice due to different interests of the actors: quick response versus long term systems building.

Capacity building

  • In Tajikistan and Armenia, UNICEF conducted a feasibility study, in 2017, looking at how existing systems can be leveraged to deliver humanitarian cash transfers. Following this, they did a series of trainings, workshops, and peer exchange visits to advocate for and build the capacity of the government in using social protection systems for emergency responses. This has been crucial in scaling up the existing programmes to respond to COVID-19.
  • ILO, UNICEF and DFID have developed a module on shock responsive social protection for the Transform initiative – a capacity building programme for social protection practitioners in Africa. The same module was developed in Kenya by EPRI and was embedded into the local university curriculum.


At the programme design level

Vulnerability assessment

  • In Tunisia, WFP is conducting a multi-sector vulnerability assessment in rural areas to inform national social protection responses. In Libya, WFP and the World Bank are also working on a similar assessment.


  • In Ethiopia, the eligibility for the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is chronically food insecure households, while for humanitarian support the criteria is acute food insecurity. Though this distinction aims to avoid overlap and improve efficiency, the process to collect data and classify households for each programme can be time and resource consuming. To solve this, various actors are working to build a single registry – a centralized database of all households.
  • In Kenya, Oxfam has set up an urban cash transfer programme reaching over 20,000 households living in slums in Nairobi. To identify the target population, they have worked with the government and assessed gaps in the provision of current social protection measures. Based on this process, they provided top ups to beneficiaries of existing programmes as well as cash support to those who were not covered by the system.

Transfer value

  • In Colombia, WFP has helped scale up systems to support migrant populations, who are excluded from existing social protection measures.  The value of cash assistance has been set up at the same level as government programmes. In Mozambique, as well, with UNICEF, WFP changed the frequency of the existing programme to provide advance payments to over 100,000 households during the crisis.
  • Lesson learned: In many programmes, there is a reluctance to adjust the benefit value based on inflation and cost of living. As a result, food assistance is being preferred over cash assistance, particularly in rural areas, and by women who have more control over the food-based assistance.


At the operations level

Information systems

  • In Cambodia, government social protection response to COVID-19 has been based on the new cash transfer programme for women and children aged 0-2. UNICEF supported the government to upgrade the programme’s management information system, to strengthen linkages with the national social registry system and enable faster application, registration and enrolment. A lesson learned from this experience is the importance of contingency plans, as systems for these programmes are designed for routine registration and could crash when there’s a huge increase in enrolment and registrations.

Outreach and communications

  • In Turkey, the cash transfer programme for the refugee population has different communication strategy, framing and messaging (despite having many shared characteristics with the government social protection programme) due to political economy reasons and to distinguish that they’re donor supported programmes.


The webinar concluded with a rich Q&A session, accessible here. The panelists also provided a list of useful resources on the topic, which can be found here.

This blog post is part of the Linking Social Protection with humanitarian cash webinar series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organized by IFRC, UNICEF and DFID on the topic. To set the scene, don’t forget to watch the foundational webinar on this topic: Demystifying the entry points for humanitarians. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary or the whole series, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below! 

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
      • In kind transfers
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
    • Expenditure and financing
  • Programme implementation
    • Benefits payment / delivery
    • Informations Systems (MIS, Social Registry, Integrated Registry)
  • Programme design
    • Benefits design
    • Targeting
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Informal social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Global
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's