Protecting the Poor and Vulnerable against the Pandemic

Cases of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Philippines went from a single confirmed case on 30 January 2020 to more than 5,400 cases and nearly 350 deaths 2 months and a half later. Authorities presented the alarming report amid the limited testing capacity. An interagency task force convened to tackle the pandemic subsequently declared community quarantines nationwide—which adversely affected people’s jobs and livelihoods. The public was hit hard by the pandemic.

The government responded by passing a law to provide social assistance (cash transfers) to 18 million poor and vulnerable families, with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) leading the delivery of the program. Expectations were high for DSWD to deliver. While DSWD was experienced in delivering cash transfers and providing emergency assistance, it had not encountered anything like a pandemic. This case study explores the implementation challenges, successes, and lessons learned from a nationwide shock-responsive social protection intervention in the Philippines.