Social Interventions and what you need to know about them.

What are Social Interventions?

Social interventions are programs designed to deliver social benefits and develop human capital of specific target groups (referred to as beneficiaries). Social interventions can be any of the following; social welfare, safety net, and social protection. While each of these has its own definition and unique characteristics, they are sometimes interchanged unknowingly. Social interventions are inclusive of but, not restricted to- poverty alleviation, access to public healthcare, maternal/ neonatal child-care, access to financial services, access insurance, and pension, job creation, technical and vocational skills development, and refugee protection growth, etc. They can be implemented and/or funded by public or private sector entities or international and local development organizations and they are mostly targeted at vulnerable citizens.

Why do you need to know about them?

The objectives of any social intervention programs are socio-economic developments — to raise the standard of living and earning capacity of vulnerable citizen ns while establishing a “social floor” that protects all members of society. These programs also help in mitigating some of the socio-economic issues plaguing a developing nation, such as unemployment/underemployment, illiteracy, maternal and child mortality, malnutrition, financial exclusion, poverty, etc. Social protection is an important factor of sustainable nation-building therefore, it is important that all stakeholders are aware of their impact.

Importance of Social Interventions

Global context

Global poverty has been on a steady rise which has yielded a global rise in social interventions. As of 2018, Social Safety Nets (SSN) are active in 64 countries, a standard increase from 2 countries in 1997.

Social protection programs are instruments used to reduce poverty rates, ensure social justice and economic development. Today, social protection expenditure per capita is highest in Europe, where countries with the highest standards of living such as Norway and Switzerland spend over 25% of their annual revenue on several social programs. Social programs around the world include; the USA’s child benefit program, which facilitates access to education which, in turn, helps break the intergenerational poverty cycle. Free access to health care in England help families remain above the poverty line by relieving them of the financial burden of medical care. Income assistance programs in Canada creates the security the people need in order to take risks and invest in their own productive capacity. Exemplary countries like China have been able to drastically reduce their poverty rates by adopting social security as a national priority. The country has over 1000 million citizens now insured under one of the three main health insurance schemes.

Social programs have also found great success in the developing world. Latin America, for example, has several successful social programs one of them Bosla Familia, a government-run conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in Brazil, reduced the nation’s poverty gap by 12% and it continues to enable the nation to improve its income distribution. Following its success, other countries have adopted similar programs. Mexico’s Prospera CCT program has been able to reach over 6.5 Million families causing an 11% reduction in maternal mortality which in turn, improved the overall health of citizens. Nicaragua has grown past its original objectives of simply providing a safety net and generating employment and has adopted a greater role in improving living conditions and development opportunities amongst its poorest population.

In Africa, 40 of 48 countries have active social programs and the number is projected to grow. South Africa’s Child Support Grant helped the nation drop its poverty gap by 28.3%, while self-help groups formed as part of micro-lending programs and conditional cash transfers have led to an increase in savings in Ghana and Zambia reporting increases in savings by 11% and 24%, respectively.

Nigerian Context

Although being one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the poverty rate in Nigeria continues to rise.

Presently, Nigeria has the highest percentage of poor people in the world with; over 43% living below the poverty line, over 50% of the population being under 18 and over 20% of the world’s population of illiterate children.

The concept of Social intervention is not new to Nigeria. Although most have been small-scaled and short-termed, they have been successful to some extent, based on anecdotal accounts as well as empirical evidence, and have positively impacted the lives of many Nigerians. Social Interventions implemented by government entities, international organizations, and the private sector have attempted to address some of our socio-economic challenges

Interventions focused on Maternal and New-born Child Health, Social Investment/ Skills Training and Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) for Girls Education have been successfully implemented within the last decade by international organizations. Education incentives such as free school meals, school supplies, and fee waivers, increased literacy rates by promoting enrolment, retention and school attendance. These programs were particularly successful in Northern Nigeria where illiteracy and poverty rates are high.

The Maternal and New-born Child Health Programme (MNCH2) reported 1.4 million safe births which improved infant and maternal mortality rates. Other programs such as Sure-P’s Community Service Scheme (CSS) had deployed about 119,000 beneficiaries as of July 2013 to work in various community projects addressing unemployment and providing skills training. The In-Care-of-the-People (COPE CCT) program which was launched in 2007 across 12 states and reached over 22,000 households. The program incentivized households to ensure that their children attended school and participated in immunization programs as conditions for receiving the benefits. So far, the programme has been able to keep over 100,000 children in school.

In 2015, the Federal Government took ownership of social intervention delivery across the country. The Federal Government chose to run a different model — a “Portfolio Approach” to social investment in interventions, as a result, the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) was created to coordinate social interventions, promote sectoral linkages/synergies with relevant Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and ensure buy-in and ownership of States and LGAs- where actual implementation happens. To date, the Portfolio of programs coordinated by the NSIO referred to as the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIPs) have cumulatively directly impacted over 12.9 Million beneficiaries and an estimated 44.6 Million beneficiaries indirectly since their inception in 2016. This is a record for any government for Nigeria. However, the true impact of this investment can only truly be felt if the programs can be sustained long term as the outcomes detailed in numbers of beneficiaries are the only that can be reviewed today.