KINGSTON, March 30, 2022 – Three UN agencies and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) today launched a new effort to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable and to enhance Jamaica’s social protection system to better respond to future shocks.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the World Food Programme (WFP) will be implementing the US $1.1 million joint programme “Modernization of the Social Protection Systems in Jamaica: Towards an Adaptive, Shock Responsive, Inclusive System”.
Globally, evidence shows that vulnerable groups are disproportionately bearing the burden of the health and socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly women and persons living in poverty.
A survey conducted recently by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) and UNICEF revealed the difficult realities faced by Jamaican families in coping with the impact of COVID-19.
The findings showed that 80% of households reported a reduction in income during the pandemic, with significantly greater loss for families in the lower socio-economic brackets. The survey also found that only 50% of families had enough to support the household’s basic needs for a maximum of two weeks. A February 2022 CARICOM and WFP Survey found that 57% of respondents had faced job loss or reduced income as a result of the pandemic.
The joint programme will introduce tools to better identify persons who face acute socio-economic challenges due to major shocks, such as pandemics and disasters, and strengthen the mechanisms and systems utilized by the Government to provide support to beneficiaries. A key innovation will be the piloting of electronic payments to enable more efficient and faster payments, with an emphasis on payments for persons with disabilities.
One of the major benefits of the programme is that it will provide the most vulnerable groups, including children in poor households and persons living with disabilities, with increased access to shock responsive social protection programmes. In so doing, the programme will be more responsive to the needs of men and women, thereby narrowing the inequalities between them.
“We are confident that this joint programme will help enhance Jamaica’s ‘rainy day’ protection, especially for female-headed households and women working in the informal sector, and families with children and people with disabilities,” said Dr. Garry Conille, United Nations Resident Coordinator, speaking at the launch event. “We are proud to be a launching a programme that will see Jamaica developing more robust shock responsive social protection and increasing its capacity to activate rapid responses targeting the most vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19 and other shocks.”
The joint programme builds on strong partnership between the MLSS and UN. In 2021, UNICEF supported the provision of cash transfers to approximately 3,000 households comprising children with disabilities, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers, as part of the COVID 19 emergency response. Similarly, between December 2021 and March 2022, the MLSS and WFP provided cash transfers to households impacted by COVID-19. This programme piloted the use of digital solutions for beneficiaries to receive their cash assistance and supported increased accountability. Lessons learned from this programme are already being used to scale-up a government programme through the same electronic delivery mechanism and will inform joint programme activities.
“Undoubtedly, this joint programme will offer no less than positive results for Jamaica, especially at this time, when the country is rebounding and recovering stronger from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Hon. Karl Samuda, Minister of Labour and Social Security. “Today’s launch marks another important milestone in accelerating our efforts to become a more inclusive and socially adaptable society.”
The joint programme is funded through the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Grant Funding initiative. It is part of a wide set of interventions under the Joint UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Fund that are designed to support Jamaica’s achievement of targets in the national development plan VISION 2030 and several SDGs.