People's Stories Poverty

Nearly two-thirds of children lack access to welfare safety net, risking ‘vicious cycle of poverty’
by Isabel Ortiz
UNICEF, International Labour Organization, agencies
Feb. 2019
Social protection is critical in helping children escape poverty and its devastating effects, yet, the vast majority of children have no effective social protection coverage, UNICEF and the ILO said in a new joint report.
Evidence shows clearly that cash transfers play a vital role in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability. Yet, globally only 35 per cent of children on average are covered by social protection which reaches 87 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, 66 per cent in the Americas, 28 per cent in Asia and 16 per cent in Africa.
At the same time, one in five children lives in extreme poverty (less than US$ 1.90 a day), and almost half of the world’s children live in ‘moderate’ poverty (under $3.10 a day). Almost everywhere, poverty disproportionately affects children, as they are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty.
The report calls for the rapid expansion of child and family benefits, with the aim of achieving universal social protection for children, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Such benefits are a key element of policies to improve access to nutrition, health and education, as well as reducing child labour and child poverty and vulnerability.
The report notes that universal social protection for children is not a privilege of wealthy countries. A number of developing countries have made or achieved (or nearly achieved) universal coverage, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mongolia and South Africa.
But in many other countries, social protection programmes for children struggle with limited coverage, inadequate benefit levels, fragmentation and weak institutionalization. Some governments undergoing fiscal consolidation are even cutting allowances, instead of extending benefits as countries had agreed in the SDGs.
“Child poverty can be reduced overnight with adequate social protection,” said Isabel Ortiz, Director of Social Protection, ILO. “To improve the lives of all children is an issue of priorities and political will: even the poorest countries have fiscal space to extend social protection floors.”
"Poverty hits children the hardest, since its consequences can last a lifetime. The poor nutrition and lost years of education that often result are tragic both for the individual and for his or her community and society,” said Alexandra Yuster, UNICEF Associate Director and Chief of Social Policy. “Countries need to put children first and reach every child with social protection to end poverty for good."
When Member States ratified the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed in 2015 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, they agreed to the global initiative’s top priority, namely eradicating poverty.
State benefits play vital role in preventing poverty
State benefits from public funds, in the form of cash grants, “play a vital role in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability”, the report insists. Of 139 countries covered by the report, on average, they spend 1.1 per cent of their wealth on children up to 14 years old.
“There is a huge underinvestment gap that needs to be covered,” said Isabel Ortiz, Director of the Social Protection Department at ILO. “The numbers worsen by region. In Africa, for instance, children represent 40 per cent of the African population overall, but only 0.6 per cent is actually invested in social protection for children.”
Children are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty, the report continues, with lack of access to education and poor nutrition among the most significant long-term impacts.
“While social protection cash transfers are vital for children, they shouldn’t stand alone,” said David Stewart, Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection Unit at UNICEF. “They have to be combined with other services – if a child is living in a household with sufficient resources and if they don’t have access to educational health, it makes a big difference. So, it’s about combining these interventions together.”
A number of developing countries have made real progress in realising universal social protection programs. In Mongolia for example, which has achieved universal social protection for children, austerity measures threaten these gains however.
“Recently, due to fiscal pressures from international financial institutions, they have been advising the Government to target the universal benefit, Ms. Ortiz explained. “So it’s one of these cases where fiscal consolidation or austerity short-term…may be having long-term impacts on children. So the UN message is to try to look at the longer-term.”
Improving all children’s lives ‘is an issue of political will’
“Child poverty can be reduced overnight with adequate social protection,” Ms. Ortiz said, adding that improving the lives of all children “is an issue of priorities and political will – even the poorest countries have fiscal space to extend social protection”.
“Ultimately, the extension of social protection is always about Government’s will. It is because a Government realizes about the important developmental impacts of protecting people, particularly those that are vulnerable, across the lifecycle, so in times of childhood, in old age, in times of maternity, protections are particularly needed.”
* Isabel Ortiz is the Director of the Social Protection Department at ILO.
* Access the ILO, UNICEF report on children & social protection:

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Projected Food Assistance needs for May 2019
by IPC, Fews Net, OCHA, FAO, agencies
Famine Early Warning Systems Network, agencies
Dec. 2018
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. The December-November briefings summarizes FEWS NET’s most forward-looking analysis of projected emergency food assistance needs in FEWS NET coverage countries to May 2019.
The projected size of each country’s acutely food insecure population is compared to last year and the recent five-year average. Countries where external emergency food assistance needs are anticipated are identified.
Across 46 countries, at least 83 million people will require emergency food assistance in 2019. The largest food security emergency will continue to be in Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, and Sudan. South Sudan, Yemen, and Nigeria will continue to face a risk of Famine.
* Projected Food Assistance needs for May 2019:
* This map represents the number of people who are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity or worse across 28 countries in May 2019:
* The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC):
* The Food Security Cluster (FSC):
* FAO GIEWS (12/18): 40 Countries requiring external food assistance:
Dec. 2018
In 2019 - 132 million people across the world will need urgent humanitarian assistance, by Mark Lowcock - UN Emergency Relief Coordinator
Today, We are launching the authoritative Global Humanitarian Overview 2019 (GHO), which outlines what the humanitarian and donor communities must do to assist and protect the world’s most vulnerable crisis-affected people.
In 2019, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries will require humanitarian assistance and protection. The United Nations and humanitarian partner organizations aim to assist nearly 94 million of the most vulnerable among these people.
The humanitarian situation in some places, such as in Burkina Faso and Senegal, has begun to stabilize. But a number of crises require a scale-up in the response. The crisis in Yemen has worsened dramatically, and we will need to provide assistance to 15 million people in the country in 2019. In Afghanistan, where the situation had been expected to improve this year, needs have instead increased because of drought, political instability and returning refugees.
Next year, humanitarian funding requirements will be dominated by eight crises: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The funding reflects what is required to alleviate horrific suffering and assist communities to build their resilience and begin to move beyond protracted or recurring crises.
The Global Humanitarian Overview is the world’s most comprehensive, evidence-based assessment of global humanitarian needs, response and requirements. It is based on detailed analysis of data, extensive assessments, and consultations with the humanitarian organizations and the other stakeholders in each affected country.
Since taking up my post as Emergency Relief Coordinator last year, I have travelled to 18 countries and seen first-hand how the humanitarian community remains incredibly effective at alleviating suffering.
In 2019, as in preceding years, the principal driver of human suffering is protracted armed conflict and the mass displacement it generates. We have seen little political progress in addressing the underlying problems of humanitarian crises, principally poverty, development and governance failures and the impacts of climate change.
In many places, we have become the default providers of basic services. This year the funding we received towards humanitarian appeals enabled us to protect and save tens of millions of lives.
Each month for instance, humanitarians are reaching 8 million Yemenis with food assistance, and 5.4 million people in Syria with supplies, medical assistance and protection. Aid workers continue to do all they can to assist people in need, even amid threats to their safety.
Humanitarian need does not look set to decrease any time soon, and given that, we must not only address immediate critical needs but foster action to reduce them. We must shift from response to prevention and early action to prevent large-scale crises. This can not only save lives but also significantly reduces response costs.
Tens of millions of people across the globe need assistance to survive. The bottom line is that the most efficient and effective way to respond right now to the needs of the 94 million most vulnerable people is swift and generous support for the Global Humanitarian Overview.
* OCHA Global Humanitarian Overview 2019 (80pp):

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