The last in a series of three regional consultations on the establishment of a national social welfare strategy and policy for Liberia is taking place in Gbarnga City, the capital of Bong.
More than 25 participants, including county superintendents and sectorial (health, education and planning) decision-makers gathered from Lofa, Bong, Nimba, Rivercess and Grand Bassa are brainstorming on the proposed policy at the Gbarnga Consultation which closes Wednesday.
The consultations are intended to gather the input of the people into the strategy and policy that will be used as a working to adequately address the issue of social protection in Liberia.
Liberia has no cohesive social protection policy in place. Various groups and organizations including donors are working fragmentally in the sector, making the impact of their programs less effective, studies have found.
As the country prepares to become a middle income state by 2030, relevant government ministries (Planning, Health and Gender), along with international partners, have seen the need to establish a national social protection strategy, which has led to the regional consultations, officials said.
The first in the three-series kicked off early March in the provincial capital of the country’s poorest county, Bomi, with at about 40 participants from five counties including Gbarpolu, Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi and host Bomi in attendance.
The World Bank defines Social Protection, among other as, “public interventions meant to assist individuals, households and communities in better managing income risks.” Through this assistance, Social Protection aims to contribute to poverty reduction and equitable, sustainable growth, specifically focusing on (i) protection to assure adequate support for the poor; (ii) prevention to provide security to the vulnerable people; and (iii) promotion to increase the chances for greater productivity and higher incomes.
Social Protections are done several ways including giving out cash to the poorest of the poor (as being done under the SCT in Bomi) and social insurance programs, such as pension, employment benefits and health insurance, among several others.
The National Social Protection Coordinator at the Ministry of Planning Gabriel Fernandez told this paper yesterday that no policy has been drafted, but the regional consultation was the beginning of the drafting a national strategy.
“The consultations is gathering inputs of the drafting of the strategy and policy with in the contest of other national related policies such as social welfare policy, gender and youth policy, education, and maternal and child health policies,” Mr. Fernandez said.
After the drafting, according to Fernandez, a national validation workshop will be held in Monrovia by the end of June to finalize the policy document. The high level national validation will be attended by major decision makers from government sectors as well as international partners, civil society and the private sector in the context of corporate responsibility.
Besides, Mr. Fernandez several other including Dr. Tanya Garneh-Murcy (National Social Protection Consultant), Mr. Alfred Duweh (Social Welfare Officer), among others are facilitating the interactive consultation.
Ahead of the policy, a pilot S0cial Cash Transfer (SCT) program—another form of social protection—has reportedly gone successful.
Social Protections are done several ways including giving out cash to the poorest of the poor (as being done under the SCT in Bomi) and social insurance programs, such as pension, employment benefits and health insurance, among several others. The SCT program provides regular payments of money to extremely poor and labor constrained households to improve nutrition, and facilitate access to education and improve health – especially for children and women.
The program is administered by the National SCT Secretariat under the Ministry of Gender and Development and overseen by the National Social Protection Steering Committee of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs. As of November 2011, a total of 1,900 families are receiving support in Bomi County.
With the success of the SCT reported in Bomi, plans are now under way to extend it to Maryland, the next poorest county in terms of food vulnerability.