PIM social protection team receives Best of UNICEF Research 2016 award


by Evgeniya Anisimova

Primary school children in class, in Harar, Ethiopia.

Primary school children in class, in Harar, Ethiopia. Photo credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Each year the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Office of Research - Innocenti invites the global network to share recently completed research for the Best of UNICEF Research competition. The aim is “to bring attention to a vital part of UNICEF’s work that contributes to shifting policy agendas and/or has a high potential for impact on policies and programs that benefit children.”

The report Evaluation of the Social Cash Transfer Pilot Programme, Tigray Region, Ethiopia completed by a research team from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Institute of Development Studies (University of Sussex), and Cornell University was selected as one of the 12 studies awarded the prize in 2016. We are delighted to congratulate our colleagues with this achievement and are honored that this research was done as part of PIM’s Flagship 4: Improved Social Protection for Vulnerable Populations with financial support from UNICEF, FAO, HelpAge International, and Irish Aid.

About the research

(Excerpted from the Abstract of the report, read full version here)

In 2011, the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BoLSA), Regional Government of Tigray (Ethiopia), with support from UNICEF, introduced the Social Cash Transfer Pilot Programme (SCTPP) in two woredas (districts), Abi Adi and Hintalo Wajirat. The SCTPP aims to improve the quality of life for vulnerable children, older persons, and persons with disabilities. It has three overarching objectives:

  • Generate information on the feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and impact of a social cash transfer scheme administered by the local administration;
  • Reduce poverty, hunger, and starvation in all households that are extremely poor and at the same time labor constrained; and
  • Increase access to basic social welfare services such as healthcare and education.


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The International Food Policy Research Institute, together with its collaborators, the Institute of Development Studies, and the Department of Economics, Mekelle University, has produced four reports on the evaluation of the SCTPP. The inception report (Berhane et al. 2012a) outlined the approach proposed for this evaluation work. The baseline report provided basic descriptive statistics on the well-being, livelihoods, schooling, and health of individuals and households of both SCTPP participants and nonparticipants living in Abi Adi and Hintalo Wajirat as well as assessing a number of operational aspects of the SCTPP (Berhane et al. 2012b). The midline report updated descriptive statistics relating to programme implementation and provided information on trends in maternal level outcomes, child level outcomes, and household level outcomes (Berhane et al. 2013). The core objective of the endline report was to assess the contribution of the SCTPP to improvements in household welfare, broadly defined.

Three main findings of this evaluation are:

  1. BoLSA demonstrated that it could effectively implement an ongoing cash transfer program. The SCTPP effectively communicated with beneficiaries, reached its target group and provided full transfers on a timely and consistent basis.
  2. The SCTPP improved household food security and reduced hunger.
  3. The SCTPP had modest effects on schooling and asset formation.

SCTPP beneficiaries report spending approximately 65 percent of their transfers on food. Across a wide range of measures, household food security of SCTPP beneficiaries improved. Adults and children eat more meals. Both diet quantity (as measured by caloric availability) and diet quality (as measured by the Dietary Diversity Index and the Food Consumption Score) improved. In Hintalo Wajirat, it reduced seasonal fluctuations in children’s food consumption. The SCTPP has no effect on school outcomes in Abi Adi. It has a modest effect on enrollment and schooling efficiency in Hintalo Wajirat. It has large, positive and statistically significant impacts for girls 6-11 years of age and living in Hintalo Wajirat. There was a small reduction in time spent by girls in work on household nonfarm businesses but no other impacts on child labor. Over the two years covered by the quantitative surveys, SCTPP beneficiaries accumulate assets in a variety of forms. They have more farm equipment, livestock, and consumer durables. Some of these increases are large.

IFPRI, IDS, and Cornell University are collaborating again on a partner study to measure the impact of the UNICEF Integrated Nutrition and Social Cash Transfer (IN-SCT) project in two other regions of Ethiopia, Oromia and SNNP, with support from UNICEF and PIM. The IN-SCT works to enhance the nutrition outcomes of the program by linking beneficiaries of the SCT cash transfers to local social services and providing mothers in beneficiary households with training on nutrition. A baseline survey for the impact evaluation of the IN-SCT was completed in 2016. Data from the baseline survey are being used to assess the nutrition situation in the targeted communities following a severe drought in the region in early 2016.

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