On October 6, 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations, together with the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI), issued a COVID-19 policy brief concerned with food security in Southern Africa. The brief addresses the question of the importance of food security and nutrition in developing social protections to help people of the region mitigate the systemic shock created or exacerbated by the pandemic.
The brief is effective in communicating the WFP-EPRI’s recommendations for social protection responses, as well as contextualizing these suggestions within information about widespread food-related challenges in Southern Africa. The brief is logically organized, and the writing style clearly conveys the main points. The content includes factual information derived from numerous reliable sources, and uses quantitative data to support assertions and claims. The recommendations also proceed logically from the information provided.
The 11-page brief uses questions as section headings, then structures the section text as responses to those questions. The first section’s question addresses the effect of food and nutrition security challenges on Southern Africa, followed by a section that lays out multiple ways that the pandemic is exacerbating the crisis just described.
The third section asks how social protection can strengthen the response to COVID-19. It begins by emphasizing the preference for an integrated system, in which inclusive “social development and equitable economic growth” are significant components of addressing poverty and building resilience. Rather than focus solely on food production and consumption, the recommendations address the larger context of insecurity. The brief states:
At least nine core systems—food and agriculture, health, education, livelihoods, social protection, social care, infrastructure, water and sanitation—determine success in long-term nutritional outcomes. Social protection reinforces all nine.
The recommendations are organized within an overarching approach, termed “a two-step react-then-pivot strategy.” The first component involves utilizing a shortened planning horizon, facilitating “an immediate reacting response.” The second aspect pivots
to expand from emergency measures to longer-term developmental initiatives while bridging the initial response into the long-term shock-responsive social protection system.
Within this dual-pronged approach, the brief provides substantive, concrete recommendations in these areas: Nutrition, School Feeding, Cash for Work, and Integrated Rural Development.
The fourth and final section answers the question, “How can a systems approach strengthen this social protection response?” The brief supports the idea of a systems approach by highlighting ongoing and newly implemented coordination among diverse sectors that pandemic-related responses have strengthened or created.