Social safety net program shows promise in helping poor households cope with natural disasters

A social protection intervention program called Program Keluarga Harapan (PKH) shows positive results by helping poor households develop proactive coping strategies before and during natural disasters, leading to social and economic resilience.

Researchers led by Professor Mihoko Matsuyuki and based at Yokohama National University published their findings on the efficacy of PKH in August 2022 in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

PKH was created by the Indonesian government as a conditional cash program to reduce poverty and inequality. It is one of Indonesia’s largest social assistance programs, exceeding $681 million in 2016.

Matsuyuki and Dr. Irene Sondang Fitrinitia, a corresponding first author, aimed to better understand the relationship between conditional cash programs for households considered poor by regional standards and their capacities to cope, preserving their quality of life after floods. and other disasters.

The poor are vulnerable to natural disasters, and improving their resilience to natural disasters is a big challenge in developing countries. The problems of poverty and the impact of disasters are linked, so measures to help them must also be interconnected.”

Dr. Irene Sondang Fitrinitia, first corresponding author

The paper notes that there are at least 325 million poor people living in 49 countries who will be most at risk from a range of natural disasters and extreme weather, and these are the people most likely to suffer long-term negative impacts. term, leaving them with lost assets and income and an even lower standard of living. “Disaster management cannot be solved by just one or two interventions,” Fitrinitia said. “There needs to be synergy with other programs, such as social protection. In addition, integrating poverty reduction and disaster risk reduction approaches is crucial to developing an inclusive and effective way of developing the livelihoods and resilience of the poor”.

The PKH study focused on the disaster-prone city of Pekalongan, Indonesia, a coastal city on the island of Java. The researchers chose to focus on traditional cloth workers, given that Pekelongan is one of the largest centers of the traditional Indonesian cloth industry. Severe flooding has disrupted fabric protection several times over the past 10 years, making these workers particularly vulnerable to more downward social mobility. The study examined government assistance, which for the purposes of the study was referred to as social protection (SP) under the subcategories of financial capital, social capital, physical capital, and human capital.

Pekelongan implemented PKH in 2012, and in 2020 there was another big flood in which the water reached an all-time high. A survey was conducted among low-income garment workers in flood-prone areas and among those affected by the 2020 floods. Local administrators were hired and trained to administer the survey. Survey responses spread across eight coastal villages were received and researchers measured quality of life indicators to show their livelihoods before and after the 2020 flood, such as the ability to rebuild permanent housing and the ability to work and generate income for their families. Overall, the existing PKH program was effective in helping disaster victims build financial capital, but it did not significantly affect human or physical capital. Future studies, Matsuyuki said, could include SP analysis that aims to encourage skills and training in certain aspects of livelihoods like micro-economic practices, which PKH does not currently offer.

“Discoveries and the topic of integration in disaster and social protection research are still relatively early,” Matsuyuki said. “In addition, measures applied through pilot programs are essential to ensure that cross-cutting mechanisms can be adopted by the poverty and natural disaster relief sectors. The ultimate goal is to develop policies and programs that integrate pro-poor social protection and disaster preparedness into developing countries, thereby addressing poverty issues among the poor while building their disaster response capacity”.


Yokohama National University

Journal reference:

Fitrinitia, IS & Matsuyuki, M., (2022) Role of Social Protection in Flood Coping Strategies in Poor Households: A Case Study on the Impact of the Keluarga Harapan Program on Labor Households works in Indonesia. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

Joel C. Hicks