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Protecting the poor in South Sudan through social safety nets

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Yar Aluong Aman, SSSNP Financial Literacy Training recipient. Photo. Janet Maya Logo, UNOPS .JPG Yar Aluong Aman, SSSNP Financial Literacy Training recipient. Photo. Janet Maya Logo, UNOPS .JPG

South Sudan presents a highly dynamic and challenging development context. As a fragile and conflict-affected country, it continues to suffer from extreme poverty and vulnerability. The devastating consequences of economic instability, food insecurity, and recurrent natural disasters have led to an entrenched humanitarian crises that have been exacerbated by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore crucial to protect poor and vulnerable South Sudanese to better address the disproportionate impact on their lives and livelihoods, particularly women who struggle daily, surviving on the edge of poverty under difficult and volatile circumstances.

To help alleviate some of these challenges, over the past two years, the World Bank has been supporting the South Sudan Safety Net Project (SSSNP), which has strived to uphold the dignity and lives of poor and vulnerable people through predictable and reliable safety net assistance. Consequently, beneficiaries report that the project is improving their living standards and increasing their ability to meet basic needs.

The SSSNP has been particularly significant in protecting livelihoods by responding to the pandemic, on-going flooding, and displacement through an adaptable and shock responsive approach of rolling out direct cash transfers. In particular, the project supports poor and vulnerable households in Juba disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 (coronavirus) and responds to the needs of displaced households in Bor, Tonj South, Melut and Gogrial West counties during the most recent floods in 2021.

The innovations brought about by the SSSNP have gone beyond the positive impacts of cash transfers through complementary ‘cash plus’ assistance to facilitate behavioral change and successful outcomes towards better nutrition, early childhood development, financial literacy and WASH for the most impoverished households.

Since inception in May 2020, SSSNP is making visible advances towards heralding a promise of positive change, resilience, and development outcomes for the poor and vulnerable South Sudanese. This will not only help in supporting the establishment of a national social safety net system in the future, but in also delivering efficient cash transfers in the highly fragile, conflict-affected, and resource-constrained South Sudan.

The World Bank has also proactively leveraged its global technical expertise and strong partnerships with the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and humanitarian and development agencies to deliver cash assistance and temporary access to income opportunities, with the aim of improving the welfare and strengthening the resilience of poor and vulnerable households while enhancing the foundations of a national safety net system. As such, the SSSNP stands out as a concrete example of the implementation of the “nexus” between humanitarian and development approaches for medium-term recovery and longer-term sustainable development outcomes.

For example, Nyagot Wol Anok, 40, is an SSSNP beneficiary from Malou, South Sudan. She reports that the cash she received from the project for taking part in planting a vegetable garden has enabled her to take care of her family and buy food and other basic necessities. Yar Aluong Aman is a recipient of financial literacy training. She has been able to save enough money to start vegetable selling business using the education she received in financial literacy.

Initial results from the SSSNP indicate that savings have increased for about 30% of the surveyed households, of which nearly 63% were female-headed, while asset ownership has increased for some 77% of households. Similarly, participation in savings groups and Monetary Financial Institutions rose from 9.5 to 22 percentage points.

The various complementary trainings provided to beneficiaries under the project are also leading to positive behavioral changes and improving the health of communities by promoting exclusive breastfeeding practices during the first six months of a child’s life and knowledge of water purification.

Given the fragile situation in the country, the project has stayed responsive to the unique needs and capabilities of women by ensuring that they benefit equally from project interventions, promoting gender-sensitive norms. It also supports women’s participation as wage workers and more equitable income distribution by ensuring that female beneficiaries are the direct recipient of the cash transfers. This, coupled with complementary trainings, promote women’s economic empowerment and household level human capital development. Moreover, efforts to ensure gender parity in the project’s local structures, whereby women now constitute 47% of all committee members, contributes to greater voice and agency by women.

Implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Service (UNOPS) with funding from the World Bank, the SSSNP offers cash assistance through Labor-Intensive Public Works, where beneficiaries carry out community infrastructure work in exchange of temporary payment, and through Direct Income Support, where the most vulnerable are given unconditional cash transfers to cater to their daily needs. So far SSSNP has uplifted 318,556 poor and vulnerable individuals in 45,528 households, with 80% of the direct cash recipients being women.

For more information about the South Sudan Safety Net Project, please email Erina Iwami, Operations Officer and Task Team Leader, World Bank (

For information about the World Bank’s work in South Sudan visit:


Nadia Selim

Social Protection Specialist

Erina Iwami

Operations Officer in the Fragility, Conflict & Violence (FCV)

Sumaira Sagheer

Senior communications specialist

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