Blog: Learning from National Society experience on climate-related humanitarian social protection

Blog: Learning from National Society experience on climate-related humanitarian social protection
10 November 2020

Linking humanitarian action with social protection could provide an opportunity to reach those most at risk from climate change and increase the effectiveness of humanitarian response, with longer lasting impacts.

This was among the main conclusions of a Climate:Red Summit session in September, Strengthening linkages with social protection: Red Cross Red Crescent experience and a way forward, bringing together National Societies which have been using social protection to reduce vulnerabilities arising from climate risks.

Hosted by the technical working group on cash and social protection, it included a panel discussion on how the National Societies in (alphabetically) Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan and the Philippines have been contributing to building the responsiveness of social protection systems for climate preparedness.

The Philippine Red Cross, for example, took existing national beneficiary lists used primarily for poverty eradication and now typhoon impacts to get cash to people badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic who might not otherwise be assisted.

The Kenya Red Cross Society assists the government in scaling up the national Hunger Safety Net Program through horizontal expansion to include people affected by drought and vertical expansion topping-up payments to some particularly vulnerable beneficiaries; during Covid-19, the KRCS has also helped the government register new beneficiaries.


The Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) has deployed social protection for floods and droughts by registering beneficiaries as part of the National Social Support Programme, using forecasts for both types of expansion of cash transfers to assist women especially.

The Climate:Red session foresaw that given the growing need for National Societies to respond to climate-related disasters and coordinate with national social protection, Red Cross Red Crescent engagement can only increase.

But effective humanitarian response by National Societies to climate shocks will depend on the strength of existing social protection and seamless involvement with it, extending support rapidly during climate emergencies.

While social protection is more than just cash interventions, these are nevertheless a tried and tested mechanism often favoured by governments, deliverable rapidly and on a large scale.

National Societies can also consider engagement with other components of social protection, including labour-related interventions, job training, social services and care; and they can strengthen existing systems by supporting evaluation, helping standardize beneficiary registration, fine-tuning delivery mechanisms, and more.

Climate change is exacerbating risks that affect the most vulnerable, and linking social protection and humanitarian action will play a crucial part in addressing such risks.

Through initiatives such as the technical working group the Red Cross Red Crescent is increasing its capacity to support such linkages around the world, helping to address climate risks and in turn strengthen social protection.

Philippine Red Cross volunteers are delivering essential non-food items to people affected by Super Typhoon Goni while observing Covid-19 protocols. The National Society has used existing beneficiary lists for poverty eradication and typhoon impacts to get cash help to people badly affected by the pandemic who might not otherwise be assisted. (Photo: PRC via IFRC)