Like many Small Island States, the Maldives faces development challenges including a narrow and fragile resource base, heavy dependence on external trade, and vulnerability to external shocks and natural hazards. Nevertheless, the development of a profitable high-end tourism sector has driven sustained growth rates and supported significant public investment. Compared to other countries in South Asia, Maldives ranks first in GDP per-capita and second, behind Sri Lanka alone, in the Human Development Index. Despite progress, multidimensional poverty remains problematic, with the first Maldives Multidimensional Poverty Index (MMPI) indicating that 18 per cent of the country’s poor are children. The Maldives’ National Social Protection Agency recognises the key role it plays in reducing poverty and improving wellbeing and is working towards improving the country’s social protection system. However, issues remain, particularly in monitoring and evaluation.
Development Pathways has supported UNICEF Maldives and its partner the National Social Protection Agency (NSPA) to generate evidence on the Maldives’ two primary social protection programmes for children – the single parent allowance and the foster parent allowance. Aligned with UNICEF’s promotion of integrated, inclusive social protection systems as effective tools to address the multiple and compound vulnerabilities faced by children, the mixed-method evaluation conducted by Development Pathways aimed to evaluate available evidence on the two programmes before recommending potential improvements. Doing so, the evaluation sought to enhance evidence-based policy design and decision-making.
After starting work in late 2019, the final report – which was completed in 2020 – reviewed the programmes’ relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. Additionally, the report drew special attention to issues of gender-equality, child-centeredness, and right-based development. Beyond highlighting successes and flaws, the report drew upon stakeholder consultation to offer ten, context-specific recommendations, such as that the State should: “Develop a training strategy to enhance effective operations at island levels.”
Amid the threat posed by COVID-19, there is strong rationale for enhancing social protection systems to prevent future generations from falling into poverty and vulnerability. Whilst the Maldives has made encouraging progress, our report demonstrates that there is ongoing scope for improvement. It provides much-needed evaluation of these national programmes, by enhancing evidence-based discussion and supporting policymakers at all levels to make effective decisions in the best interests of the Maldives’ children.