Applying lessons from gender-integrated social protection to disaster risk finance
There is growing operational convergence between disaster risk finance and social protection, notably cash transfer programmes. But where does gender fit into these discussions and what can disaster risk finance learn from the large body of experience and evidence that exists within the field of social protection? Can understanding the gendered impacts of different risks on different people in diverse contexts determine what – and who – is or isn't protected after a disaster? How does this understanding feed into the design of instruments, such as risk pools or insurance?
Inequalities and vulnerabilities matter when pre-arranging finance for disaster response
Factors such as gender, age, disability, location, and poverty shape how people experience disasters. The COVID-19 crisis impacted more negatively those with poorer health, inadequate housing, and less secure jobs. Discriminatory norms, unequal access to resources, limited bargaining power, and insufficient representation increase vulnerability, especially for women and girls.
Taking into account how crises impact people differently is important in designing disaster risk finance. For example, weather-based crop insurance can help address the different risks from climate impacts that households face, but it has often failed to reach women farmers because of their lower levels of land ownership, literacy, and access to financial services. In some cases, such insurance schemes have not covered the type of crops that only women are likely to farm.
If we care about protecting vulnerable people and communities from disasters, gender matters. To date, the report card for gender and disaster risk finance is mixed. For example, among the sovereign risk pools, there are variable levels of consideration of gender in their design and implementation: the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility collects gender impact data; the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative collects sex-disaggregated data on participants and payout audits; and the African Risk Capacity, through its gender strategy, has committed to mainstreaming gender throughout its operations and also established a gender and disaster risk management platform with the African Union.
Where do disaster risk finance and social protection have common cause?
Social protection has already proven effective in reducing poverty, addressing the immediate impacts of shocks and reducing vulnerability. For example, during a severe drought, Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) significantly reduced food insecurity in the country’s drought-prone region but also helped participants accumulate savings, access healthcare, loans and credit, and strengthen social networks, indicating that integrating climate and disaster risk into social protection benefits resilience.
Social protection’s ability to respond to disasters depends on how flexibly and rapidly it can scale up to cushion populations against shocks. Cash transfers can be delivered effectively and quickly through existing programmes and systems countries have invested in before a shock. For example, Kenya’s HSNP doubled its participants in just two months during a drought. Disaster risk finance can help ensure that the right amount of cash is available at the right times when needed for scaling up a cash transfer programme in response to a disaster to provide protection against shocks.