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Addressing negative socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through social protection in Viet Nam

Supporting incomes and livelihoods with cash assistance in Dong Nai province

In late April 2021, Viet Nam faced its fourth wave of COVID-19, with over 895 000 new cases reported. COVID-19 and related restrictions hindered livelihood options leaving vulnerable households facing financial stress to cover basic needs. Dong Nai is among the country’s top three provinces and city areas to be hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic: high numbers of resident workers in the province lost their income and livelihoods, having to rely on the government’s social assistance programme (for the few who qualified) and support from relatives.

Between November and December 2021, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) implemented an intervention to assist around 650 vulnerable households in the context of the programme on Scaling up Forecast-based Financing/Early Warning Early Action (FbF/EWEA) and Shock Responsive Social Protection for disaster resilience in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). FAO delivered one unconditional cash transfer leveraging certain components of the national social protection system, namely the cash delivery mechanism and the national database on social assistance and poverty reduction to identify beneficiaries.

This promising practice fact sheet documents the intervention which aimed to help households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions to cover their basic needs, including households already benefiting from existing social assistance and non-beneficiary households. More specifically, this intervention sought to improve food security and prevent vulnerable households from resorting to negative coping mechanisms.


  • On cash: the intervention faced the challenge of delivering cash assistance at a time when imposed social-distancing policies led businesses to suspend their activities and leave workers home. Under those conditions, only some essential sectors or service providers were allowed to travel for work, including the national postal service (VNPost) which carried out the cash assistance distribution. The intervention entailed the unconditional transfer of cash to beneficiaries. VNPost delivered assistance on behalf of FAO through a direct agreement. This option allowed FAO to guarantee transparency in the cash distribution and speedy delivery in a given situation.
  • On social protection: the intervention highlighted the importance of comprehensive social protection registries that include enough information to target and deliver emergency assistance promptly. Leveraging certain components of the national social protection system– e.g. databases to identify beneficiaries – can support the strengthening of the system by addressing existing gaps or inefficiencies. This includes verifying the information contained in government registries and databases, while involving government actors throughout the validation process. The capillary presence of post offices in the targeted areas helped overcome difficulties in reaching beneficiaries, This highlights that relying on existing components of the social protection system delivery chain enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the intervention.
  • On localization: this intervention shows that low human resource capacity of government counterparts can hinder targeting and monitoring activities in the field. In the past, partnerships with other actors, such as the Red Cross, allowed FAO to tap into substantial voluntary resources to conduct such activities. During this intervention, the government’s mobilization of youth unions and grassroots organizations proved to be crucial to access sufficient voluntary human resources to conduct verification and validation of the information contained in social registries.
  • On inclusion: targeting criteria were aligned to the criteria set by the national and provincial administration for extraordinary support policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This shows that relying on gender-sensitive and inclusive criteria allows to prioritize the most vulnerable households, including: female-headed households, households with disabled or chronically ill members, households with lactating mothers, households with children under five years of age, and households with people over the age of 65.
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