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Innovations in public works for reaching the most vulnerable children and households in east and southern Africa

Anna McCord | November 2005

 

This report examines the social protection role of public works programmes in the East and Southern Africa region, in terms of their ability to address the needs of OVC and households affected by HIV/AIDS. It explores whether public works have a role to play in addressing the massive social protection challenges arising as a result of the high HIV prevalence rates in East and Southern Africa, and the growing incidence of OVCs. 

The report reviews how public works programmes have adapted in response to the challenge of HIV/AIDS in Southern and Eastern Africa, and the innovations and programme developments which this challenge has stimulated. The report outlines the general social protection function of public works programmes, and then gives an overview of public works programmes around the region which have attempted to respond to the challenge of HIV/AIDS and OVCs, and also to the need for sustained livelihoods development in order to promote adequate social protection outcomes. A public works HIV/AIDS typology is developed on the basis of the regional overview, which identifies six different approaches to addressing HIV/AIDS through public works programming, comprising:

• Programmes offering generalised employment, and therefore indirect benefits to HIV/AIDS affected households and/or OVCs
• Programmes offering employment to HIV/AIDS affected households
• Programmes offering a free distribution of wage food/assets to vulnerable labour constrained households and/or OVCs
• Programmes offering service provision for HIV/AIDS affected households and OVCs
• Programmes linking public works employees to HIV/AIDS support interventions
• Programmes including Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activity, including social mobilisation and peer education

Each of these innovations is explored in detail, with case study examples from around the region. After this, a range of key factors impacting on the potential of public works programmes to achieve their social protection objectives are discussed. Finally, issues of cost effectiveness and evaluation are considered, before conclusions and recommendations are presented on the role of public works as social protection instruments for supporting OVCs and those affected by HIV/AIDS. Throughout the region, lack of monitoring and evaluation renders discussion of impact problematic, and lack of disaggregated public works budget information renders discussion of cost effectiveness equally difficult.

In the light of this, conclusions regarding the role of public works instruments to address social protection in general and the needs of OVC and households affected by HIV/AIDS in particular are necessarily inconclusive. However, from the evidence available, and drawing on international experience, it can be concluded that as generally implemented, public works may not be a cost effective means of delivering social protection to vulnerable groups, compared to alternative approaches such as direct cash transfers. However, if appropriately designed, (producing assets of real and sustained socio-economic value, linked with complementary HIV and social development initiatives, and taking into account the innovations currently being developed in the region such as an expansion of public works into social, as well as physical infrastructure), public works offer the opportunity to provide employment and sustained social protection gains within the region, while also addressing critical social and developmental needs. Beyond this, international agencies have a key role to play in the meaningful integration of HIV/AIDS into public works programmes at a national level, by promoting links between public works and the network of HIV/AIDS service providers available in each country.

 

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