(3 May 2017) The chief of UNICEF Innocenti’s social and economic policy unit, Jose Cuesta, has presented to some of the world’s leading poverty and social protection experts in Ghana on strengthening social protection programmes in the country.
Jose Cuesta presented to officials from the Ghanaian government and World Bank as well as NGOs and UNICEF representatives as part of a joint World Bank and UNICEF Ghana seminar on strengthening social protection programmes in the country last month. The talk was delivered amid a Ghanaian government commitment to prioritise funds for social protection programmes dedicated to assisting the country’s poorest families as part of its 2017 budget. UNICEF now encourages the Government of Ghana to take the next step of ensuring that delivery of social protection to Ghana’s poor is further supported through coordinated implementation with other essential services and interventions in order to achieve sustainable life-changing impact.
One in four Ghanaians live in poverty, making the gap between the rich and poor now bigger than ever. As such social protection programmes - such as Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), School Feeding Programme (GSFP), and Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme - are more important today than ever before.
The LEAP programme provides cash and health insurance to extremely poor households across Ghana to alleviate short-term poverty and encourage long term human capital development. These programmes support vulnerable families to meet basic needs, access schooling and receive healthcare. They are also effective and efficient tools to reduce poverty and promote growth for Ghana. Evidence shows that when social protection is combined with quality education and health, the effects are even stronger.
“Poverty reduction in the world is happening very fast but not enough to be ended by 2030 with current global growth unless we speed up the reduction of inequality,” said Jose Cuesta in a keynote titled the relevance of global evidence for poverty and inequality reduction in Ghana.
“This is a key lesson that is relevant for Ghana. It is possible to reduce poverty and it is possible to grow, but it’s very difficult to do it inclusively. Promoting inclusive growth and protecting the poor in Ghana will require expanding the budget for LEAP and ensuring it benefits those truly in need and on time.”
Peter Ragno, Social Protection Specialist at UNICEF Ghana advocated for continued investment in social protection programmes: “The formal connections between LEAP and NHIS have provided poor households greater access to health services and improved their overall wellbeing. This success indicates there is a real opportunity to replicate the collaboration, joining LEAP and other sectors.”
“For example, ensuring LEAP households are entitled to agriculture outreach services will increase household productivity, promote sustainable and resilient livelihoods, and generate positive impacts in the surrounding communities. Continuous investments in social protection, combined with new linkages to quality social services, will ensure long-term returns for the country as a whole.”