Nutrition and Social Protection: Making the Link for Better Human Development

Nutrition and Social Protection: Making the Link for Better Human Development


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A collaborative blog from the SecureNutrition team.

As part of the recent Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) organized by WHO and FAO in Rome, Italy, SecureNutrition and the Russian Federation hosted a well-attended side event titled, Transition from Safety Net Programs to Comprehensive Social Protection Systems: Food Security and Nutrition Perspective. Moderated by economist Lawrence Haddad, the panel of speak​ers representing IFPRI, FAO, WFP and the Russian Federation sought to articulate the current state of social protection/ nutrition operational linkages, current challenges, and what’s on the horizon.

The panel marked a first step towards building a collaborative operational research agenda for social protection/nutrition linkages, which will be used as a foundation for a 2015 Global Forum devoted to aligning researchers and implementers.

Although made up of multiple international agencies and several country perspectives, the panel presentations highlighted strong recurring themes such as the acknowledgement that all governments spend money on social protection. The opportunities to leverage links with nutrition are already in place; these programs can be positioned not only to address poverty in the short-term, but to contribute to longer term sustainable development through the improved nutrition and health of its children in the critical early years of life.

However, it is also evident that there is no “automatic” impact on nutrition through social protection programming. In order to increase the likelihood of impact on nutrition outcomes, there are several areas in need of both evidence and innovation. These include:


  • What works in different country contexts?
  • How do we better integrate and link different sectors in order to achieve consistent wins for nutrition (e.g. between social protection and health; social protection, agriculture, and Education; etc.) and systems (health systems, food systems, etc.)
  • How do we bring vulnerable populations along the full social protection continuum—from protection through to transformation?
  • How can we ensure nutrition-sensitive social protection programs reach women in the first or second trimester of pregnancy?

Design failings are often blamed for weak impact of social protection programs on nutrition. With an eye towards the post-2015 development agenda, working together across both technical sectors and stakeholder groups—the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, governments, and the community—will be vital to more thoughtful programming.

As the panel noted, there is a huge opportunity to “get away from old dichotomies… developed vs. developing, this generation vs. the next generation, emergencies vs. development.” On the cusp of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the ability to integrate nutrition into key sectors like social protection, agriculture, health and others is one that could help turn the 2030 targets from rhetoric to reality.


World Bank and Nutrition 

World Bank and Social Protection

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