The nature of humanitarian crises is changing. More people are in need and for longer. Today’s emergencies, both man-made and natural, are putting the humanitarian system under severe strain. Cash Transfer Programming (CTP) is increasingly recognized as an effective and efficient tool to meet a wide range of disaster-affected population needs while preserving dignity. Cash transfers give people choices and make humanitarian aid more accountable to affected people while making scarce resources go further. They can leverage the opportunities created by the global expansion of financial services, including digital payments, the growing number of social safety nets.

One of the highlights at the first-ever World humanitarian summit in Turkey in 2016 is the agreement between more than 30 of the biggest donors and aid providers, which aim to get more means into the hands of people in need. “The Grand Bargain” commits donors and aid organizations to provide 25 per cent of global humanitarian funding to local and national responders by 2020, along with more un-earmarked money, and increased multi-year funding to ensure greater predictability and continuity in humanitarian response. This includes amongst other the gearing up of CTP.

The history of cash transfers in humanitarian aid

Cash transfers have a long history. Cash was provided by the Red Cross in the 1870–71 Franco-Prussian War in response to famine in nineteenth-century India, and in Botswana in the 1980s. The response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was a turning point for cash transfers, as several aid agencies piloted them as an alternative to in-kind aid. Over the past decade, cash transfers have become a more common approach to supporting people’s survival and recovery from crisis.

The experience of Solidar Suisse

The humanitarian aid unit of Solidar Suisse has an extensive experience in the planning, implementation and evaluation of CTP and conducted several cash projects in the recent years. Building on its experience and strengthening its internal disaster preparedness, the organization acknowledges the increasing importance of CTP in humanitarian interventions. With the creation of a cash focal point, Solidar Suisse aims to further develop and strengthen the approach in-house through continuous learning and adaptation.
The presented case studies examine three CTP – in Lebanon, Nepal and Sri Lanka – that were implemented in the last five years. The findings are based on Post-Distribution Monitoring, Lessons-learnt workshops and focus group discussions held with randomly chosen beneficiaries of the projects. The results support and confirm the numerous studies on CTP from a wide range of humanitarian actors in the recent year: Cash is in many contexts a better way to help people and stimulate markets and represents value for money compared to in-kind alternatives. The obvious concerns about using cash – that it might cause inflation for key goods in local markets, be more prone to abuse and corruption or diversion, more difficult to target and more likely to be controlled by men and so disadvantage women – are not borne out by the evidence.

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