Social protection helps families cope with rising food prices

September 11, 2008

Elizabeth Hernandez Amaya lives in a poor district on the outskirts of Mexico City with her husband and three young children. Her husband gets jobs at work sites when he can, but he is not regularly employed, and the family often struggles to meet their basic needs.

When food prices skyrocketed earlier this year, the 24-year old mother was concerned she wouldn’t be able to buy her family the nutritious food they need.

“Everything is more expensive now,” Elizabeth said, noting that “prices increased suddenly.”

But thanks to Oportunidades, the Mexican government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program that assists poor households, Elizabeth receives an additional 120 pesos per month to purchase food.

Elizabeth has received assistance from Oportunidades (formerly known as Progresa) for more than two years. Her family’s involvement in the program is conditioned on their participation in health, nutrition, and education services.

In collaboration with the Mexican government, IFPRI evaluated the program several years ago and found that it reduced household poverty, as well as stunting and anemia (signs of malnutrition) among children, and increased school enrollment, especially for girls.

Other IFPRI research shows that CCTs not only reduce poverty and improve the health, nutrition, and education of young children in the short-term, but they also increase future income-earning potential, reducing the likelihood that they will remain poor as adults. Because of the benefits of such social protection programs as Oportunidades, IFPRI recommends investing in these programs as part of a comprehensive response to the food price crisis.

Receiving the supplement “felt so good and helped us to buy a little more food so my kids can get better nutrition,” Elizabeth proudly added.

Additional information on social protection programs