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Elsa Valli


Elsa Valli joined the Social and Economic Policy Unit at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti as a consultant in January 2017. She contributes to producing policy-relevant evidence mostly through impact evaluations of social protection and cash transfer programmes. Her research interests lie in poverty and vulnerability, children and adolescents’ wellbeing. In the past she worked on research projects for Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, European Union, UNRWA, USAID, and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) on poverty dynamics, food security, nutrition, agriculture, social protection and education mostly on Sub-Saharan countries but also Middle East, India and Latin America. Elsa was awarded a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex on issues related to development economics, focusing on social protection in Ethiopia
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Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of donor funds for development and emergency interventions. As such, its targeting of social protection has received substantial attention. In particular, concerns have been raised that political connections could play a role in determining the selection of beneficiaries. With the introduction in 2005 of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), Ethiopia implemented various policies aimed at increasing transparency in the targeting of social protection. This case study compares targeting before and during the implementation of PSNP, and shows improvements in targeting for both public works and emergency aid in relation to the dimensions of poverty, food security and political connections. Most notably, political connections are no longer found to determine the receipt of benefits during the implementation of PSNP.


Elsa Valli

Social protection in Ethiopia is primarily allocated through community-based targeting. The few studies that have analysed the efficacy of aid targeting in Ethiopia have revealed targeting biases in regard to demography, geography and political affiliations. With the introduction in Ethiopia in 2005 of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), a major social protection programme, various administrative guidelines were introduced (and subsequently periodically revised) with the aim of improving targeting. This paper uses data from the last two rounds of the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey to investigate whether PSNP implementation resulted in changes in both targeting determinants and amount received for public works (a component of PSNP) and emergency aid between 2004 and 2009 in 11 rural villages. In general, public works appear to have been allocated on the basis of observable poverty-related characteristics, and emergency aid according to household demographics. In addition, the results suggest that, for both public works and emergency aid beneficiaries, political connections were significant in determining the receipt of aid in 2004 but that this was no longer the case by 2009, indicating an improvement in the channeling of social protection to its intended target groups. However, a household’s experience of recent shocks was found to bear no relationship to receipt of support, which suggests that a more flexible and shock-responsive implementation could improve targeting for transitory needs.


Elsa Valli


Impact evaluation of a social protection programme paired with fee waivers on enrolment in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (2019)

Tia Palermo, Elsa Valli, Gustavo Angeles, Marlous de Milliano, Clement Adamba, Tayllor Renee Spadafora, Clare Barrington
BMJ Open, vol. 9 (11)


Social Protection & Cash Transfers

A multi-country research and learning initiative to provide rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programmes.