Safety Nets

Recent food, fuel, and financial crises have amplified the importance of strong social safety nets to reduce poverty and vulnerability. Safety nets help poor people by boosting their incomes, increasing school attendance, improving nutrition, encouraging the use of health services, and providing job opportunities.

The World Bank Group supports sustainable and affordable safety net programs that protect families from shocks, help ensure that children grow up healthy and well-fed and stay in school, empower women and girls, and create jobs. Building sustainable and affordable safety nets in each developing country is a key component of the Bank Group's Social Protection and Labor Strategy 2012-2022, which is helping countries move from fragmented programs to affordable social protection systems that enable individuals to manage risk and improve resilience by investing in human capital and improving people's ability to access jobs.

The Bank Group works with countries to develop country-tailored tools and approaches; invest in knowledge, data, and analysis; and provide "on-time" policy advice and continuous technical assistance and capacity building. The Bank Group supports a diverse set of safety net interventions, ranging from cash transfers to labor-intensive public works to school feeding programs. In low-income countries, the Rapid Social Response program is particularly instrumental in addressing capacity constraints, developing effective delivery systems and communicating results.

The average annual World Bank Group commitment for social safety nets during fiscal 2007 to 2013 was $1.72 billion, a threefold increase from $567 million per year during fiscal 2002 to 2007. From fiscal 2007 to 2013, $12 billion in 273 lending operations across 93 countries were approved. About 21 percent of this financing was allocated for the world's poorest countries through IDA. Knowledge services comprise a critical component of supporting the safety nets agenda, especially in low-capacity contexts where implementation capacity is weak. Recent trends in safety nets practice include:

• Increase focus on low-income IDA countries.

Among the 93 countries represented in the portfolio, 42 had no or limited exposure to Bank Group safety nets engagement prior to fiscal 2007. Africa was the region with the highest number of countries newly introduced to the portfolio.

• Increase in lending for systems-based approaches. In fiscal 2013 alone, 26 projects with a social protections system-building component were approved. Prior to fiscal 2013, only a handful of systems-building projects existed.

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