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LAC Rapid Response to Food Crisis

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  • Conditional cash transfer programs.
  • School feeding programs.
  • Ensure that basic heath care is free for poor households.
  • Contributory pensions.

Conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs) could deliver additional cash to poor households, and help offset the risk of malnutrition, school absenteeism, or forgoing healthcare services.   Income generation programs make sense in urban areas, where the households most affected are likely to have surplus labor. Workfare programs concentrate the available funds on wages and can be geared up fast. Social funds can generate employment and income in poor communities. Many countries have municipal programs that offer cash transfers or free food—such as soup kitchens or comedores populares.

Many school feeding programs are well targeted but underfunded, so feeding is erratic. Providing every poor child with a meal every day could help offset the income effect of higher food prices on household budgets and also reduce the risk of reduced school attendance. To reduce malnutrition from future income shocks, the Bank should reinforce effective nutrition strategies in the Andes and Central America. Key goals should be to fight chronic malnutrition and to intensify nutrition monitoring and counseling in the first two years of life in high-risk communities.

The best way to maintain regular basic heath care during income shocks is to ensure that basic heath care is free for poor households. Free health insurance programs targeted to households in the lowest wealth quintiles are most effective. They already exist in several countries in the region and should be strengthened, and other countries should be encouraged to establish them.

A lack of contributory pensions remains a major problem for vulnerable old people in the region. Countries should be encouraged to establish social pensions for the elderly poor, who are most vulnerable to food price increases.

[1] Even without an increase in benefits, conditional cash transfer programs reduce the risk that negative income shocks will reduce school enrollment and routine healthcare because withdrawing from the services leads tostill further income losses.

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