Profiles of the social protection systems of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan prior to COVID-19 and snapshots of their responses to the pandemic


Before elaborating a Policy Research Brief and a set of technical assistance product to support UNICEF Country Offices in South Asia during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) collaborated with them to produce five comparative reports on the social protection landscape in the region.

  1. Social spending in South Asia: an overview of government expenditure on health, education and social assistance
  2. Overview of non-contributory social protection programmes in South Asia from a child and equity lens
  3. Gender and social protection in South Asia: an assessment of the design of non-contributory programmes
  4. Social protection legislative frameworks in South Asia from a child-rights perspective
  5. Evidence linking social protection programmes in South Asia with child poverty, economic growth and improvement in human development

These pre- and post- COVID-19 studies were presented in a comparative manner in the first three webinars of the series (Webinar 1, on studies 2 and 3; Webinar 2, on the preliminary findings of the policy brief on the responses to COVID-19 in South Asia; and Webinar 3, on studies 1, 4 and 5). From this webinar onwards, discussions will be country-specific and highlight cross-cutting topics that connect the studies.

This webinar discussed social protection trends in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-authors of the comparative reports discussed the various pre-crisis social protection landscapes and reflected on how COVID-19 has impacted the countries and their emergency responses, they also presented potential paths ahead. These discussions were complemented by presentations from UNICEF social protection specialists that brought up-to-date information about COVID-19 responses by national governments and international organisations, and also shed some light on UNICEF’s agenda for the different countries. Questions addressed in this webinar included:

  • What were the core features connecting legal, fiscal and programme-level features of social protection programmes and policies in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan before the COVID-19 crisis?
  • How did the COVID-19 crisis and the responses deployed to mitigate its impacts alter the social protection landscape in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan?
  • Which social protection agendas rose to greatest prominence in the transition to the current pandemic scenario in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan?
  • Which upcoming social protection agendas are geared towards addressing the structural and circumstantial challenges faced by the social protection systems of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan?



Usha Mishra, Chief of Social Policy, Evidence and Evaluation at UNICEF Nepal

Isabela Franciscon, IPC-IG Researcher

Louise Moreira Daniels, Chief of Social Policy, UNICEF Sri Lanka

Beatriz Burattini, IPC-IG Researcher



Nienke Voppen, Programme Specialist Cash Based Assistance, UNICEF Afghanistan


This was the fourth webinar of the Series ''Social Protection in South Asia – the landscape before the Covid-19, and a snapshot into responses to the crisis and the paths ahead'', jointly organised by the IPC-IG, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA), and Country Offices.