Social Protection and Child Malnutrition in Ethiopia: Realising the nutrition potential of social protection - progress and challenges

Ethiopia has made significant progress towards reducing poverty over the last several years. However, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with rural areas suffering from pervasive levels of deprivation and seasonal hunger. Children are particularly vulnerable.

Five underlying factors are key to understanding the causes of child malnutrition in Ethiopia: insufficient food availability; inadequate provision of a healthy environment (eg, poor water, sanitation and hygiene); maternal wellbeing and quality of caring practices; women’s decisionmaking power and control of resources; and political economy factors.

Community-based, informal social assistance has a long tradition in Ethiopia. And over the past decade, there has been a growing policy momentum around social protection programmes, spearheaded by a concern to move away from a dependency on emergency food aid and, more recently, by government efforts to protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of the global food, fuel and financial crises of 2008 through a range of social protection programmes. Social protection programmes have proved to be very beneficial to households, but they need to be designed in a more nutrition-sensitive way, with a strong focus on infants, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.

Tackling child malnutrition remains a pressing challenge that requires improved food security, behavioral and attitudinal changes and improvements to basic services. This paper recommends that: progress must be sustained, through the adoption of the social protection policy and implementation strategy; coverage of the Productive Safety Net Programme must be expanded and weaknesses in its design and implementation addressed; synergies between social protection and nutrition policy and programmes need to be developed; government policy must promote mothers’ economic and social empowerment through social transfer schemes; and, policy and programme monitoring and evaluation must be improved.

Published 2018-09-03

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