Expanding safety nets in response to shocks: The Experience of the Government of Sierra Leone’s Ep Fet Po Programme’s COVID-19 Response

In 2020 and 2021, the Government of Sierra Leone rolled out an emergency cash transfer in two phases as part of a scale up of its Social Safety Net Programme, known as Ep Fet Po. Targeted at low- paid informal sector workers, whose incomes were hit by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 65,083 households1 benefited from a one-off payment of $US 135. Assessments found that beneficiaries used their cash transfers to smooth consumption and invest in their ongoing businesses. Data collected through the Sierra Leone COVID Impact Monitoring Survey (after implementation of the first phase of the emergency cash transfer) found that beneficiaries were more likely to report that they had worked in the last week and that their main source of income was less likely to have decreased than an equivalent control group. However, most impacts were short lived with benefits no longer visible six months after transfers were received.