2020 Retrospective: South Asia

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The social protection landscape in South Asia before and after the COVID-19 pandemic was the subject of many studies produced this year in partnership with the UNICEF Regional Office in South Asia (ROSA) and its Country Offices. 

From April to June, the IPC-IG provided Technical Support to seven UNICEF Country Offices in South Asia, with an average of 16 days of assistance per country. The goal was to arrange a ‘help-desk’ support through which the IPC-IG could provide real-time advice via regular calls, as well as carry out quick assessments to inform responses promoted by UNICEF in the region. Requests ranged from tabulations for mitigation and/or recovery cash transfers—including cost and coverage estimates—to advocacy for target approach and commissioning of phone surveys.

Some of these studies were presented during a Virtual Booth Talk organised by UNICEF ROSA, in the scope of the e-Conference “Turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity: What’s next for social protection?”, held by the socialprotection.org platform in partnership with the IPC-IG in October.

A webinar series titled “Social Protection in South Asia—the landscape before COVID-19, a snapshot into responses to the crisis and the paths ahead” spanned six sessions, from May to October. Around 300 people attended the webinars, which discussed issues such as legal frameworks for social protection, social protection expenditure profiles, mappings of flagship programmes and impact evaluations. The last three sessions also addressed government responses to COVID-19 in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In September, the Centre published two Research Reports: “Overview of social protection systems in South Asia” and “Social spending in South Asia—an overview of government expenditure on health, education and social assistance”, presenting the social protection landscape in the region prior to COVID-19. Click here for a publications summary on pre-COVID-19 social protection systems in South Asia.

Due to the pandemic, field missions and workshops were cancelled, and a set of COVID-19 related studies were produced. A series of eight One Pagers summarising the social protection responses to COVID-19 in the countries of the region was published in September. You can access all publications here.

In October, the Centre delivered a broad Research Report titled "Socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, policy responses and the missing middle in South Asia", which examines the epidemiological evolution of the pandemic and documents governments’ policy responses to the crisis up until late July 2020. The report aims at understanding the challenges involved in reaching the ‘missing middle’: workers who are covered neither by social assistance nor by social insurance. An Executive Summary of the study is also available.  

Photo: PD