DHAKA – More than 100 guests, including representatives from the Government, Embassies, NGOs and Civil Society, the UN, and media came together at the Sonargaon Hotel yesterday for the launch of a joint research initiative comparing the income, food security and nutrition outcomes of different kinds of Safety Net transfer by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The event was hosted by the Disaster Management and Relief Division, Ministry of Food and Disaster Management.
Chief Guest, Honourable State Minister Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, from the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, and Chair, Secretary for Relief and Disaster Management, Dr. Aslam Alam presented well received speeches while Ms Christa Räder, WFP Representative and Dr. Akhter Ahmed, Chief of Party at IFPRI presented the current safety net situation, new challenges and the research.
The research part is funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the transfers to ultra poor women have so far, been funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation (BMZ). This initiative seeks to answer the question: which social safety net transfers work best for the rural ultra poor?
“Social Safety net programmes for the most vulnerable are vital in all countries, especially in times of crisis. For WFP, it is important to bring more evidence into the debate of which transfer types, cash or food or both are most effective with regard to increasing the income and food security of the ultra poor; in light of the persisting high levels of child undernutrition we of course also need to know if transfers or rather transfers combined with nutrition training are effective” explained Ms. Räder.
Under the initiative 4000 women from randomly selected ultra poor households in the north-western and southern regions of Bangladesh receive an unconditional transfer every month for the next year. The transfers are valued at Taka 1,500 and include the following; cash, food, cash and food combined, food and nutrition training combined, and cash and nutrition training combined. The outcome of these five different transfer modalities will be examined with reference to their impact on household income, food security, and child nutrition. The objective of the research is to provide evidence on which kinds of transfers work best for the ultra poor in Bangladesh.
Dr. Akhter Ahmed expanded on this, saying, “we studied all the major social safety net programmes in Bangladesh to understand the effectiveness of various kinds of transfers, but we realized it was difficult to isolate the pure effect of food or cash transfers on certain outcomes from the effect of program design. So, we carefully designed this research that will allow us to provide definitive evidence on the impacts of alternative transfer modalites in Bangladesh.
The findings of the research will inform the social safety net debate in the country and provide evidence to policy makers that design safety net programmes. The research will shed light on which type of programme can best improve the income status and food and nutrition security of the rural poor and thus be a valuable tool to the Government as it is preparingits social protection strategy. The Government has increased allocations on social safety nets in the budget, reflecting its political commitment to realizing the goal of a comprehensive and scaled up social protection strategy. Last year, almost 3 billion US dollars were allocated to social safety nets.
“WFP has been a long time partner to most of the government’s food security programmes and we welcome this kind of research. This is something that will illuminate the gaps, the overlaps, the outcomes and start to answer the many questions that we have. This is going to help us design more effective models to reach the ultimate goal that we have set ourselves, that is poverty eradication” said Honourable State Minister Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in a statement of support for the research. Dr. Aslam Alam, Secretary, DMRD added to this, stating that, “It has been a great honour to host this ceremony and support this research. This is a unique initiative that will help us reduce irregularities and make our programmes more effective. I wish the initiative great success and I look forward to seeing the results that it achieves”.
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Christa Räder, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +880-2-8116344-48 or 8119064-73
Farina Noireet, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +880-2-8116344 or 8119064-73 ext. 2143, Mob. + 88–01711859476