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Published on May 7, 2020

Social Protection for the SDGs in Malawi: Accelerating Inclusive Progress Towards the SDGs

Message from the UN Resident Coordinator

The Joint SDG Fund brings together three UN agencies that are heavily involved in social protection in Malawi: WFP, UNICEF, and ILO. These agencies have accumulated valuable experience through implementing social protection programmes with the Government of Malawi over many years. Their combined experience ensures a comprehensive SDG approach to the joint programme that is fully integrated into existing national coordination structures. By 2022, the joint programme aims to support a strengthened social protection system that enhances the quality of life of vulnerable Malawians and improves national resilience to shocks, leaving no one behind.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, social protection remains extremely relevant. As we are seeing around the world, it will have an impact on household incomes, hitting first those operating mainly in the informal economy in urban areas. The joint programme will be adapted to support the Government of Malawi’s response to the outbreak, including supporting the development of an emergency urban cash transfer programme to protect the well-being of these households.

Maria Jose Torres
UN Malawi Resident Coordinator



Shock Sensitive Social Protection

Social protection and humanitarian sectors have traditionally been seen siloed, but this distinction is eroding due to the changing nature of crises. As such, in Malawi there is a vision for a governmental social protection system that meets seasonal needs, prepares for and responds to shocks together with the humanitarian sector, and supports recovery and the return to regular programming for a more sustainable approach to meeting routine and emerging needs. This quarter, the joint programme has worked with the government to start consolidating lessons learned in order to identify key recommendations to take forward as part of a government vision on SSSP. 

Increasing Fiscal Space Improves Sustainability 

A social protection system that is heavily reliant on donors can lead to sudden changes in coverage or benefit levels and affect the sustainability of interventions. Using budget analyses and fiscal projections, there is significant potential to increase fiscal space for social protection interventions via increased government contributions through innovative public and private financing plans. This quarter, the joint programme began to structure and collect data for a financing and expenditure brief that will map expenditures of the current social protection system in Malawi and provide scenarios for potential future contexts.

Legal Frameworks form a Rights Base 

National policies and strategies help to institutionalise social protection while legal frameworks serve to formalise the rights base for the social protection system. Moreover, legal frameworks play a vital role in increasing government investment in social protection. Malawi has an opportunity to develop a comprehensive legal framework that ensures access to those eligible for support and is responsive to the needs of vulnerable Malawians. This quarter, the joint programme has started discussions around the future of the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP), the cornerstone of Malawi’s social support system. The programme has operated since 2006, and covers around 1.2 million Malawians. SP4SDG is supporting the government in defining how the SCTP programme will evolve in the next 5 years.

Want to learn more?

Click here to read a one page brief on the SP4SDG joint programme, and here for a helpful infographic explaining the three programmatic components.