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COVID-19 and Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific

Situation Report
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The COVID-19 pandemic is set to severely derail development gains, and could push millions more people into poverty. The number of food insecure people in the region could increase by over 80 percent as the incomes of already economically stressed populations fall further.

Alarmed by the potential rise in poverty and food insecurity, many governments in Asian and Pacific nations are adapting, extending and scaling up social protection measures to mitigate COVID-19’s socioeconomic impact. This includes advancing payments, waiving conditionalities, increasing benefits (including one-off or unconditional cash transfers, inkind transfers, and subsidies) and coverage of social assistance schemes.

Several governments are already managing largescale cash or food transfers or subsidies, e.g. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Others are also expanding social insurance and/or financial obligation support (waiver of utility bills), e.g. Myanmar.

WFP is supporting the efforts of governments in Asia and the Pacific with several actions, including:

• help to understand additional needs and vulnerabilities arising from the pandemic;

• adapt existing safety nets to increase the value or coverage of in-kind or cash-based social assistance;

• establish new schemes to reach populations not covered by existing safety nets; and

• strengthen national social protection and emergency response systems and their coordination.

To do this, WFP plays a three-fold role, as a:

  1. Technical advisor: In this 'enabling' role, WFP strengthens social protection capacities by deploying the technical strengths derived from its analytical and operational capacities.

  2. Service provider: WFP provides services to governments in the implementation of their own social protection programmes and strategies.

  3. Complementary actor: WFP delivers assistance using its own resources and own systems, in a way that contributes to the strengthening and augmentation of governments’ social protection responses.