10 social protection areas: towards universal coverage

Emine El Ilevi (front) and her sister Zeynep, in the picture above, are Syrian refugees in the Turkish city of Adana. The sisters, their three siblings and her father Ahmed arrived in Turkey after a bomb landed in the middle of their living room, killing Emine’s pregnant mother and seriously injuring her. The eldest four children of the family attend school, but Emine’s father, as a single parent, was not able to seek employment because his youngest son is too young and requires care. The El Ilevis faced constant income shortage and were at risk of deep and chronic poverty.

Emine is not alone. Child poverty remains widespread: some 385 million children are struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day and there are over one billion living on below $3.10. Many children face not just the challenge of poverty, but social exclusion – differential treatment as a result of who they are: being girls, having a disability, or being from a minority ethnic or linguistic group.

Our new Global Social Protection Framework outlines our work with partners to reach every child

The impacts are immediate and devastating for these children, affecting their nutrition, health, education and ultimately their long-term development. The long-term repercussions are even wider – as children become the next generation of adults, the paths of societies and economies are altered.

Further, global trends, from climate change to forced displacement, threaten to increase child poverty and vulnerability, making the challenges even greater.

Social protection plays a crucial role in protecting children and families from poverty, vulnerability and the growing number of shocks and challenges they are facing.

On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, UNICEF is delighted to release our new Global Social Protection Framework and Companion Guidance, which outlines our work with partners to reach every child, especially those like Emine and Zeynep.

The framework outlines UNICEF’s approach to social protection, but perhaps most importantly lays out what national social protection systems should achieve for children.

Simply, that every child:

  • Lives in a household with sufficient financial resources to develop and fulfil their potential
  • Has access to quality basic services and the knowledge needed for development, regardless of income or personal characteristics
  • Has direct contact with a social or outreach worker when needed, who can help support the responses they need

To achieve this protection, people require comprehensive social protection systems that support them across their lives: not only as children, but as they grow up, go to work and reach old age. The framework highlights UNICEF’s 10 Action Areas in working with governments and other partners so that children can receive this protection. Only in working together, in partnership and collaboration, can we ensure that every child is covered.

An infographic illustrating UNICEF's 10 Action areas in social protection

The countries where social protection is expanding demonstrate what is possible, and the inclusion of social protection in the Sustainable Development Goals and the international partnership for Universal Social Protection 2030 show the commitment is shared.

Emine and her siblings are now able to go to school, thanks to a UNICEF-supported cash transfer programme, which helped normalize their life. The family still has limited income, but they’re doing better, are cared for and supported by their teachers and friends. Outreach workers also help the children seek help from specialized services when needed.

However, this is the exception not the norm: globally two out of three children are still not covered by any form of social protection at all.

Social protection is the right of every child, it is the foundation of a country’s social contract; only by working together can we provide every child with coverage and give every child an equal chance in life.


David Stewart is Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection, UNICEF HQ.

Atif Khurshid is Social Protection Specialist, UNICEF HQ.


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