How did the World Bank incorporate child protection service delivery in its COVID-19 social protection projects?

 COVID-19 has increased the risk of harm to children while simultaneously disrupting the delivery of essential child protection services. The World Bank’s COVID-19 social protection projects are the Bank’s best avenue to improve child protection systems in crisis, but the Bank has not consistently integrated efforts to protect children within its social protection projects.

Child protection services form the foundation of a comprehensive child protection system. These are services designed to prevent, mitigate, and respond to abuse, exploitation, and violence against children as well as prevent and respond to instances of child labor. This may include psychosocial support for survivors of violence against children (VAC) and child sexual assault, exploitation, and harassment (SEA/H), safe shelter for children leaving abusive situations, and interventions targeted at moving children out of the worst forms of child labor. Social protection projects that incorporate child protection service delivery can have long-term positive impacts on the well-being of children and enhance the coverage of a country’s social safety net. Considering that COVID-19 has caused serious disruptions to child protection service delivery and heightened the risk of harm to children, the World Bank should use its COVID-19 social protection projects to fill gaps and build child protection systems back stronger.  

BIC’s recent report, How is the World Bank considering Child Protection in its COVID-19 Social Protection response?, analyzes 55 World Bank COVID-19 social protection projects, focusing on five broad categories of child protection. One of these is child protection service delivery, where we found that while some projects did include positive measures, overall the Bank did not consistently integrate measures to strengthen child protection service delivery. We found:

  • 38 percent of projects included provisions for hiring child protection service delivery providers. 
  • 64 percent of projects included psychosocial support for children, either generally or specifically to address SEA/H or VAC issues. 
  • Only 18 percent of projects integrated civil society into child protection service delivery efforts and only two projects explicitly included child rights organizations in child protection systems strengthening. 
  • Of the 24 projects that included a cash-plus program, 100 percent had a potential entry point for child protection concerns.  

The Lebanon Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project stood out as a promising practice for service delivery. Linking a cash transfer program with the provision of social services, the project connects students enrolled in the cash transfer program to social workers who work to help children stay in school or return to school. Subcomponent 3.2 of the project also includes provisions for psychosocial support for children both generally and in instances of SEA/H. The project further benefits from the integration of civil society into service delivery efforts and systems strengthening as the implementing agency is working with local NGOs to provide a package of services, such as therapy case management for at-risk children.  

This Lebanon project is encouraging and demonstrates the Bank’s capacity to strengthen child protection service delivery through its social protection projects. However, the Bank should systematize the inclusion of child protection service delivery components in its social protection projects. BIC recommends the Bank:

  1. Include child protection services in project design.
  2. Consider children as project beneficiaries in social protection projects.  
  3. Integrate child protection into wider cash-plush programs. 
  4. Directly support child protection service provision. 
  5. Work collaboratively with, and leverage the expertise of, local civil society. 

For more information on our service delivery findings and recommendations, please read our report here.