Helping South Asia Cope with Natural Disasters: The Role of Social Protection

South Asia Human Development Discussion Paper No. 20

32 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2008 Last revised: 4 Jan 2011

Date Written: September 21, 2007


This discussion paper, an input to the South Asia region's Social Protection and Hazard Risk Management Strategies, describes the cash transfer instruments supported by the Bank in South Asia, evaluates their design and implementation, and suggests improvements to increase their effectiveness. Based on available evidence, the paper finds that cash transfers appear to have performed well in providing relief to affected households, suggesting that they should remain an integral part of Bank-financed support for natural disasters. The paper also suggests that the Bank can ensure timely and high-quality support through a best-practice design toolkit, a right-on-time technical assistance facility, and by integrating social protection in emergency preparedness by building the capacity of national social assistance (cash transfers) agencies to respond to natural disasters. Although the focus is on cash transfers, the note also discusses other types of social protection mechanisms used in emergencies in South Asia and worldwide, e.g., workfare or social care for the vulnerable, and which might also appropriate for including in Bank emergency operations. The note covers South Asia, but lessons from this region may also be relevant for governments of other developing countries and donors.

Keywords: Natural disasters, social protection, cash transfers

JEL Classification: O12

Suggested Citation

Heltberg, Rasmus, Helping South Asia Cope with Natural Disasters: The Role of Social Protection (September 21, 2007). South Asia Human Development Discussion Paper No. 20. Available at SSRN: or

Rasmus Heltberg (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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