Social protection programs are primarily focused on influencing household behavior in the short term, increasing consumption to reduce poverty and food insecurity, and promoting investments in human capital. A large body of evidence across numerous settings shows that cash and food transfer programs are highly effective in doing so.

This paper assesses the impact of Ethiopia's flagship social protection program, the Productive Safety Net Program on the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food and nutrition security of households, mothers, and children. The analysis uses pre-pandemic, in-person household survey data and a post-pandemic phone survey.

The importance of children’s nutritional status for subsequent human capital formation, the limited evidence of the effectiveness of social protection interventions on child nutrition, and the absence of knowledge on the intra-household impacts of cash and food transfers or how they are shaped by complementary programming motivate this paper.

There has been substantial progress on improving children’s nutrition in Africa: stunting (height-for-age z scores