Briefing Note on Cash Transfer Programming in Emergencies


Cash-Based Interventions (CBIs) in humanitarian situations

Introductory remarks from The Cash Learning Partnership[1] (CaLP): the humanitarian community is faced with the task of responding in more complex environments, including a dramatic increase in the number of affected populations in need of protection and
assistance for protracted periods. Against this backdrop, the uptake of cash transfer programming (CTP) in large-scale and prolonged crises has increased in recent years. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Humanity calls for a commitment to ‘use cash-based programming as the preferred and default method of support’ (UN, 2016).
For vulnerable people in increasingly restrictive operational settings and with over-stretched resources, CTP presents an opportunity to address their diverse, protracted needs; to support livelihoods and resilience; and to increase the potential for social cohesion through engagement in local economies and communities.[2]

UNICEF supports and has been expanding the use of cash transfers in humanitarian settings.

To further understand the overall potential of CBIs:

è  Browse through the UNICEF Cash-based approaches in humanitarian situations web page[3] and have a look at the brief summary discussing the practice and evidence around conditional and unconditional cash transfers, before outlining UNICEF’s approach. UNICEF favours Unconditional Multi-purpose cash transfers in humanitarian settings to improve children’lives in multiple dimensions, strengthening the resilience of children, households, and economies. This web page also provides a useful “Delivering the CCCs: a checklist for the use of unconditional cash transfers” and tips from UNICEF’s experience implementing cash transfer in emergencies through existing social protection scheme in Nepal in 2015.

è  Review the UNICEF 6 Key messages on Cash Transfer in Humanitarian settings3 (also highlighted in purple in this briefing note).

è  Read the UNHCR introduction to Cash-Based Interventions in UNHCR Operations[4].

è  Explore the WFP cash-based transfer and voucher programming web page[5].

è  Navigate the CaLP website and its wealth of resources and capacity building tools on CTP1.

What type of Cash-Based Interventions (CBIs) are there?


Table 1: extracted from the UNHCR Introduction to cash programming document


Terms and definitions (extracted from the UNICEF EAPRO Webinar on the fundamental of Social Protection)

Cash-based interventions are a rapidly growing and evolving modality of humanitarian assistance.

Though same CBIs methodologies apply for many sectors, at first many of these guidelines were largely focused on food security (livelihood protection/support and access to food) and more recently to address also Social Protection sector goals. Nowadays, it is recognized that CBIs have the potential to be used to meet the nutritional needs of children, their families and communities affected by shocks and disasters5.

Going further the CaLP vision is that “by 2020 single multi-sector cash transfers will be routinely considered, (combined
with in-kind or voucher assistance when needed), that will best meet the needs of beneficiaries. This can fill gaps where needed and complement other specialized interventions (such as shelter reconstruction). Multi-Purpose Grants (or MPGs)
are designed to offer people affected by crisis a maximum degree of flexibility, dignity and efficiency commensurate with their diverse needs. For these reasons, MPGs can also contribute to more successful sector-specific interventions, enabling crisis-affected persons to utilize in-kind goods and access services as they were intended in addition to receiving cash assistance
for basic needs.”

Cash-based programming for nutrition outcomes.

In 2012 the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) published a paper looking at how cash transfers could address malnutrition and its causes in crises and transitional contexts. The paper also examines findings on the impacts of conditional cash transfer programmes on nutrition in development contexts, where abundant research has been conducted which could potentially be applied to other settings.

More recently, the Research on Food Assistance for Nutritional Impact (REFANI) consortium started investigating the impact of cash and voucher-based assistance on nutrition outcomes with the aim of creating an evidence base for high-impact and cost-effective mechanisms in the prevention of undernutrition in emergencies[6].

The REFANI project is looking at cost effectiveness of different modalities (conditional, unconditional, grants, vouchers) using the same transfer value, as well as looking at the same modality with different transfer values and their impact on nutritional outcomes. The literature review undertaken by the
REFANI consortium explains that whilst good evidence does exist on the positive impact of CTP on diets and food security, increased household income and asset protection may not be sufficient for reducing malnutrition in all situations. Published guidance advises “[where CTP] interventions have specific
nutritional objectives, assessments should consider whether cash on its own will be sufficient to meet these objectives, or whether combinations of food and cash or complementary nutrition-specific programming is needed”.

The importance of complementarity: The literature review notably mentions a study from Concern Worldwide that concluded that cash alone and access to CMAM services alone did not have an impact on child nutritional status, but cash plus better access to CMAM did result in a lower prevalence of global wasting (WHZ <-2 Z-scores) among children under-five (Aker and Nene, 2012). Likewise, another study saw a lower incidence of acute malnutrition when cash was provided alongside Supplementary Plumpy, Plumpy Doz or CSB++ (Langendorf et al., 2014). There was no significant difference between the cash only strategy, compared with the product only strategy (Langendorf et al., 2014). Lastly, cash was judged to limit ration sharing when delivered alongside a BSFP, which is assumed to promote the programme’s nutrition impact.

Cash-based approaches have even greater impact in combination with services, e.g. schools and health and nutrition care that the money helps people to access. Therefore, UNCEF advocates that Cash transfers work better when accompanied by services.

Extracted from the UNICEF EAPRO Webinar on Social Protection fundamentals - Source: Cash Based Programming in Humanitarian Contexts Framework - UNICEF 2017



Extracted from the UNICEF EAPRO Webinar on the fundamental of Social Protection

The REFANI consortium also outlines key CTP design features with a nutrition lens including on:

· Practices with regards to beneficiaries targeting, timing and duration of the intervention, amount of cash transfer and frequency of distribution;

· Discuss complementary health, wash and counselling interventions to cash transfer, impact of conditionality, of cash versus vouchers, impact on mother’s health, nutrition and empowerment, and on care practices;

· Discuss cost-effectiveness of CBIs for nutrition outcomes.

Ensure the Do No Harm principle is applied when working on targeting and cash delivery.

Cash transfers offer opportunities to reach populations with broader relief and recovery efforts.

Cash transfers in humanitarian contexts and social protection systems need to work more closely together across the development-humanitarian nexus.

UNICEF favors approaches that are built on strengthening expand or complement existing government systems to top-up in the case of an emergency to target populations or to shadow existing government systems where they exist (benefit level, payment system, registration, etc). Regardless, whether the CBI will complement existing social protection programs or start as a new program (in case a large scale crisis that led to a collapse of government-led welfare programs), preparedness and response planning are key. The CaLP proposes guidance and tools notably on CT for remote Emergency Programming, including a preparedness checklist[7] and highlights the importance of needs assessment and market analysis. As pointed in the CCCs, markets (including trade routes) need to be operational in the areas where cash transfers will take place. UNICEF can approach this in collaboration with Governments, INGOs or WFP.

Extracted from the UNICEF EAPRO Webinar on the fundamental of Social Protection

[1] The Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) website

[2] extracted from CASH TRANSFER PROGRAMMING AND PERSONS OF CONCERN briefing note, CaLP July 2016

[3] UNICEF CCC eResources on Cash-based approaches in humanitarian actions

[4] Introduction to Cash-Based Interventions in UNHCR Operations 2012

[5] WFP Cash-based transfer and voucher programming website

[7] CaLP Cash Transfers in Remote Emergency Programming, Project Preparedness Plan, link here