By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Save the Children International and Action Against Hunger, implementers of the Child Development Grant Programme (CDGP) with the continued support of the UK Government Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), have shared lessons learned and evidence in support of social protection as a veritable tool for addressing multidimensional poverty and exclusion, towards ensuring that no one is left behind.
The programme implementers shared insights gained from the eight-year CDGP from 2013-2021, with the public.
SCI in a statement issued on Thursday, said social protection systems have been proven the world over to help individuals and families, especially the poor and vulnerable, cope with crises and shocks, find jobs, improve productivity, invest in the health and education of their children, and protect the aging population.
Social protection programs are at the heart of boosting human capital for the world’s most vulnerable. When designed and implemented properly, Social protection systems can be powerful and transformative tools to shape countries, enhance human capital and productivity, reduce inequalities, build resilience and end the inter-generational cycle of poverty.
The right to social protection is also embedded in numerous international human rights agreements to which Nigeria is a signatory, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the SDGs, among others.
Globally, it said the relevance of social protection has continued to increase, as a viable tool for mitigating economic and fiscal shocks, as we witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Nigeria, social protection has continued to rise as public priority, for addressing multidimensional poverty, an important policy instrument to address economic, social and political exclusion and vulnerability. This continues to be evident with the ongoing review of the national social protection policy as well as expansion of the National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).
The UKAid funded Child Development Grant Programme (2013-2021), was implemented based on these premises and in support of them.
CDGP was first implemented as a nutrition-sensitive programme (2013-2019), aimed at improving the nutritional status of children under five in Jigawa and Zamfara States.
It was found to be a scalable programme that demonstrated how cash transfers can bring cost-effective immediate and long-term food security and nutrition benefits to poor households with young children in northern Nigeria. Then, from 2019-2021, CDGP morphed from its social assistance model of cash-transfers to a social protection system strengthening initiative providing technical assistance to the Federal government and state governments across four northern states of Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Zamfara, to expand evidence in support of social protection, and strengthen policies, legislation towards its institutionalisation in the country.
Similarly, the programme worked with CSOs and the media to raise public awareness and improve accountability and political will in support of social protection among state actors.
CDGP has been able to demonstrate solid evidence on how the government can use social protection to reduce stunting in the country; and showcase the role civil society can play in advancing the social protection agenda both at state and federal level, towards ensuring the gender-sensitive and equitable coverage for excluded groups in the country.
After just four years of implementation, the programme witnessed significant improvements in key health and nutrition indicators in areas where CDGP was implemented in Jigawa and Zamfara states.
These included a reduction in stunting, from 70.5% to 65%, an 80% increase in women using antenatal care services, a 150% increase in women practicing exclusive breastfeeding, and a 45% increase in children being vaccinated. Similarly, among CDGP beneficiary households, there were significant increases in expenditure (15% higher than in control communities). Beyond impacts at the household level, further economic analysis revealed that every $1 of cash transferred led to at least $2.2 returned to the local economy, as cash recipients spent their money on goods and services and from the improved nutrition outcomes.
As part of the close-out of the eight-year long programme, Save the Children International and Action Against Hunger, implementers of CDGP are showcasing the programme’s achievements, disseminating evidence in support of social protection and lessons learned and making a clarion call to the Government and its partners to expand social protection services for the most vulnerable children, women and households in Nigeria.
Kayode Ajumobi, National Programme Manager CDGP and now ESPID, said, “over the past 8 years CDGP with the support of FCDO Nigeria worked with the Federal Government and the governments of Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and Zamfara to strengthen the design, delivery and institutionalisation of social protection. The transformative potential of social protection largely depends on its alignment with other factors and policies, such as basic social services, the functioning of markets and employment opportunities. In the next two years, both SCI and FCDO will continue to collaborate with governments at state and federal levels to expand coverage of social protection to underserved population groups”.
Mercy Guchuhi, Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria commended the Federal Government for taking decisive steps towards institutionalising social protection in the country, particularly with the establishment of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development, the ongoing review of the National Social Protection Policy and the expansion of the scope of the National Social Safety Nets programme in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said, “SCI is passionate about interrupting the cycle of intergenerational poverty that has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing even more households into poverty”. She called upon the Federal, State and Local Governments to #ProtectAGeneration, by taking decisive actions to empower the next generation of children, especially vulnerable children- girls, those from very poor households and children with disabilities.
Dabagai Dabagai, Country Director, ACF, added that “Globally, the world has dealt with a widening gap of wealth and income inequality most prevalent in the last 40 years. Apart from the economy, social construct as relates to gender, race and vulnerability are experiencing variations of inequality. As humanitarians, we witness the hardship families and communities grapple with as a result of conflict, natural or economic disaster. ACF sees the difference a cash or food voucher can make in the lives of vulnerable groups. We see the change in disposition and health outcome when Water Sanitation and Hygiene facilities are made available or a dilapidated health centre is refurbished and outreach services provided. We see the dignity of households restored when they access skills and start-up grants. The results can only be multiplied when an enabling environment and strengthened institutions pilot and drive contributory and non-contributory social protection schemes and programmes”’
Sam Waldock, Team Lead, Governance and Stability Block, UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office said, Social protection can transform society. It underpins the achievement of multiple development goals: getting enough food; sending children to school; accessing health care; and building economic assets and activities. It is a powerful tool in the battle against poverty and inequality.
I’m pleased to have this opportunity to share the evidence generated by the UK aid-funded CDGP, to help develop stronger social protection systems. The UK is looking forward to working with Nigerian Government to building on this success through our ESPID project, to support more effective, inclusive, and accountable social protection in Nigeria
In addition, the dissemination meeting was used to unveil CDGP’s successor project, Expanding Social Protection for Inclusive Development (ESPID), will build and capitalize on the success and impact of CDGP, helping make social protection systems in Nigeria stronger and more sustainable. During the unveiling, SCI called on the Governments at all levels to increase commitments towards social protection by:
1. Enacting Social Protection legislation at Federal and State levels that guarantee all Nigerian citizens’ rights to adequate and decent standard of living as well as protection from deprivations and economic shocks.
2. Strengthening social protection institutions and systems at federal and state levels, by creating long term dedicated and ring-fenced funding for social protection.
3. Prioritising the creation of the Nigerian social protection floor that ensures all citizens to have access to basic social services and income security throughout their lives.