The issues

Social protection is big news right now. A crippling global recession combined with huge debate as to what comes next once the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015 means that social protection is increasingly being seen as an essential tool for tackling poverty and vulnerability on a large scale.

The cash transfer programmes identified in our case study countries attempt to address some of the following vulnerabilities hoping, in turn, to reduce social exclusion and promote greater social justice:


Axes of social exclusion operate alongside and reinforce poverty and inequality. Social relations and institutions prevent access to livelihood opportunities and the benefits of trade and growth. They can also threaten the impact or reach of poverty reduction strategies.

  • In Uganda vulnerable groups experience higher rates of poverty than the national average. For example, 29% of households with an older person (above 65 years) are living in poverty compared to 25% for all other households.


Gender discrimination is another key axis of social and economic exclusion.

  • For example, in Palestine, conservative social norms and highly limited economic opportunities intersect to reinforce women’s economic dependence. As recently as 2010, men’s participation in the labour market stood at 67% compared with 14% for women.

Child and Youth Vulnerabilities

Exclusion can often affect a child’s access to key services, with health and education outcomes varying according to race, ethnicity, gender, identity and location.

  • Young people in Yemen are at a particular disadvantage due to high levels of illiteracy, limited access to basic education and weak prospects for employment. The situation is even worse for those within the poorest ethnic minority group, al-Muhamasheen, whose members are considered to be al-Akhdam, or ‘servants’, by mainstream society.

People with disabilities (PWD)

People with disabilities often face significant barriers in terms of securing appropriate employment or accessing healthcare. Factors such as distance, lack of appropriate facilities, as well as stigma and discrimination associated with mental or physical disabilities, can all lead to both community and self-exclusion.

  • In Mozambique, approximately 2% of the total population are recognised as having disabilities and therefore experiencing lower living standards than everyone else. Also significant is that this figure does not take into account those with mental disabilities.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Refugees

Internal displacement excludes many from vital and basic institutions such as healthcare services, schools and labour markets. Furthermore, they face social exclusion within new communities, as they are often considered outsiders.

  • Displacement affects many people in Palestine. In Gaza, half of all registered refugees live in one of eight UNRWA refugee camps. In the West Bank nearly a quarter of a million people are living across nineteen camps.


The stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS often leads to social exclusion, affecting health-seeking behaviour including accessing prevention treatment, care and support services.

  • In Kenya, the number of people living with HIV is around 1.5 million, with the number of orphans (0-17 years) as a result of AIDS estimated to be around 2 million. This has highlighted the need for child-centred measures that focus on increasing access to health services and education.