A man in front of a hut is questioned by a Red Cross worker.

Spotlight Economic Support

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Each year, millions of people are affected by disasters and crises. To respond to their needs, the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) supports its Sister National Societies to either provide food supplies and essential non-food items or, with growing importance, cash and voucher assistance.

Overview

Evidence shows that Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) is an efficient, effective and transparent means of supporting crisis affected populations, promoting people’s independence and choice. In line with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the RCRC Movement) CVA global strategy, the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) has increasingly used CVA as a way of responding to crises and disasters, supporting National Societies to put people affected by crisis at the centre of humanitarian response and empowering them to recover with dignity.

Cash and Voucher Assistance and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the advantages of CVA as a practical and effective tool for assisting large numbers of those in need. Evidence from the response to the COVID-19 crisis has shown that CVA can be quickly scalable, delivered safely and remotely through digital payment mechanisms, and be effective in combating some of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

Cash and Voucher Assistance in 2021

In 2021, the SRC supported partners in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Paraguay, Kyrgyzstan, Syria and Haiti in their response to growing vulnerabilities linked to both complex emergency scenarios and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a member of the Movement Cash Community, the SRC not only contributed to the delivery of CVA but also significantly invested in cash preparedness and the establishment of accountability structures and systems. By increasingly choosing CVA as an economic support response option, the SRC contributed to the Movement’s 2020-increase of 58% more people being reached with CVA across 116 countries.

Key cumulative data 2021

The disaster and crisis response intervention supported by the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) reached more than 231000 people either through cash and voucher assistance or through provision of basic supplies and / or services. This does not include contributions to multilateral emergency appeals of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. 

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supported through cash and voucher assistance

As many people were supported through cash and voucher assistance 

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provided with basic supplies and / or basic services

As many people were provided with basic supplies and / or basic services.

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CHF disbursed

As many CHF was disbursed in total through cash and voucher assistance.

Our Programme Countries

Results 2021

The examples represent snapshots of our work in the different intervention countries and highlight some of the specific output results of 2021. The impact of the different country programmes in economic support are highlighted in the Programme Domain Disaster Risk Management.

Cash inject eases socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on urban slum dwellers

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated poverty and vulnerability levels particularly in urban settlements worldwide. The impact has been widespread, varied and significantly damaged economies and local markets, bringing extensive income loss and particularly impacting those already vulnerable. In Bangladesh, urban slum dwellers were hit by containment measures, with access to informal income generating activities limited, if not halted completely. Many affected took debts to meet basic needs.

The Response

In order to alleviate some of the pressure of the pandemic on the vulnerabilities of inhabitants of two urban slums, the Swiss Red Cross and the Bangladesh RC Society (BDRCS) developed a six-month emergency response project to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable. An inclusive selection process targeted 3700 households, out of these 74% of the recipients were female and 26% were male. A rapid market assessment highlighted functional markets albeit with an increase of prices of food and basic household items. Recipients received two instalments of cash through the Bangladesh Post Office, guaranteeing safety and security, both in the traditional sense but also bearing in mind COVID access constraints.

The Effect

The cash distribution supported families to purchase food, cover medical expenses, pay debts, purchase basic household items, cover school fees and support family businesses. Clear evidence for the recovery of lost incomes and livelihoods due to COVID could not be documented. However, investments in debt-reduction, family businesses, self-employment and education suggest that a substantial number used the funds provided with a longer-term perspective.

Key Data

  • 3698 out of 3700 households targeted received 2 cash grants

  • 100% cash assistance spent to cover basic household needs

  • 100% of recipients reported feeling safe at the distribution venue

  • 99% satisfaction according to the post-distribution monitoring

  • Increased capacity for Bangladesh RC Society through strengthening of their Standard Operating Procedures

Emergency Cash and Voucher Assistance in the high security context of Haiti

Haiti is a country dogged by insecurities, violence, lack of effective government structures and weak public services. To add to this, the country is regularly hit by natural disasters. While the population shows considerable resilience in light of the challenges, even minor events can have a significant impact on the most vulnerable in remote locations. The major earthquake in 2021 which hit the Grand Sud region of Haiti, destroyed homes and infrastructure. The Swiss Red Cross with its partner, the Haiti Red Cross, being present in the region, immediately after the disaster launched a three-pillar emergency intervention, distributing non-food items, establishing access to clean water and distributing unconditional cash.

The Assessment

In a context where “do no harm” and maintaining neutrality is critical, the cash intervention specifically had to focus on defining beneficiary selection criteria. To facilitate this process, mixed focus group discussions were held with people representing youth, teachers, religious people, and people aged 65 and over. These focus groups provided the necessary information regarding precautions to be taken (e.g. prioritising women in households to give cash) and elements to capitalise on (e.g. using the local cooperative for cash distribution) in order to successfully implement the project without harming the communities.

The Response

Of approximately 1747 households visited through a survey, 1344 met the selection criteria. Of these, 1300 received 20,000 gourdes (approx. USD 200) each during two rounds of distribution in December 2021. The distributions were organised jointly with volunteers of the local Haitian Red Cross committee of L'Asile at the office of the financial service provider, the credit union KPLAN (Kes popilè lazil nip). This cooperative, which was identified by the Swiss Red Cross following discussions with local partners and counterparts, was one of the only means to transfer cash between the capital and the regions. All other attempts at using other financial service providers were significantly delayed due to the banking system being closed down as a wave of general strikes hit the country throughout the implementation period.

Key Data

  • 812 females and 532 males received unconditional cash by the end of 2021

  • In a record two days, 1344 beneficiaries were identified by the Haiti Red Cross as beneficiaries to the programme

  • Distribution of non-food items 24 hours after the earthquake, securing access to clean water and the distribution of cash to over 1300 beneficiaries all contributed to alleviating the suffering of a population already surviving on limited means

In-Kind to Cash – communities’ positive reaction to Cash and Voucher Assistance in Paraguay

For the Swiss Red Cross’ partner in Paraguay the shift to Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) was spurred by the impact of multiple natural disasters affecting rural and indigenous communities in 2021. While the distribution of in-kind items has predominated in the past, events in 2021 resulted in a CVA project benefitting 35 rural communities and 4 indigenous communities as well as increasing competency of youth volunteers to learn new data collection methodologies assimilating new technologies into the local disaster management committees.

Modalities

The cash contributions were made through a mobile phone network with an extensive network of purchase points, providing the recipients with a flexible choice of local shops. Training of the community disaster management committees on mobile applications had the secondary effect that committees became better prepared for future emergency interventions.

Effects ...

The majority of the rural communities targeted by the project used the cash inject to mitigate the negative effects of drought, frost, pandemic and hail on their livelihoods, to temporarily ensure food security and to recover their means of production in a dignified manner. The use of cash to ensure food security, in particular, supported their ability to continue agricultural and livestock production rather than leave their farms in search of seasonal work.

… and unintended Effects

A participatory needs assessment highlighted that the indigenous population preferred to remain with a more traditional approach of delivering food and agricultural inputs contributing to their food security and the recovery of their livelihoods. Solid monitoring thus demonstrated that the CVA approach conflicts with their joint ownership way of life.

Key Data

  • 690 rural families targeted with cash and 188 indigenous families received in-kind support

  • 205 volunteer facilitators and youth volunteers trained in data collection using the KOBO tool

  • 54% of the families paid off some debts to small shops and local grocery stores, also supporting the owners of these small shops to survive

Cash for scaling up and down in complex, protracted crises


Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) is increasingly applied as a tool in complex emergency scenarios. Such complex emergencies occurred in Ethiopia in 2021, where CVA covered basic needs of people affected by flooding, or supported displaced persons affected by conflict and further impacted by food insecurity. CVA also was used to support those whose livelihood was threatened by the COVID pandemic and in compliment to health and risk communication campaigns undertaken by branches and volunteers of the Ethiopian Red Cross, applying a multi-dimensional approach in their response management. For any of the responses supported by the Swiss Red Cross, it was critical to include host communities avoiding to place unsustainable pressures on already limited means.

The Cash and Voucher Assistance...

... in the Context of the Metehara Floods ...

Flood victims in the city of Metehara spent several months in tents or unoccupied schools, with only a few household items remaining. Some 629 households received cash transfers from the Ethiopian Red Cross which the majority used on food items, shelter construction materials and medical expenses. To compliment, water treatment bottles were distributed to the recipients and health promotion messages delivered.

… in the Context of the Tigray Conflict …

In the meantime, the SNNPR region (Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional State) suffered the humanitarian consequences of the Tigray conflict. An influx of displaced people placed pressure on the host community already facing limited resources and suffering from the impact of erratic rains and failed crops putting their food security in jeopardy. Both food and shelter needs were identified by local authorities as critical. Cash assistance was identified as the preferred option to allow the targeted 1646 households (11522 affected people) to decide individually on their priorities. Distribution of cash was completed in Derashe, Konso and Alle between May and December. The second phase of the cash transfer aimed in particular at contributing to recovery activities with almost all displaced people returning to their place of origin.

… in the Context of the COVID Pandemic

Using cash as a response and early recovery measure became also relevant in the response to the COVID pandemic targeting returnees, urban poor and pastoralists. Four branches of the Ethiopian Red Cross distributed cash through different disbursement modalities to 1240 households (8680 people). More than 80% of those targeted indicated they preferred the CVA to non-food items/food distribution and used the contributions for food, clothing and medicine.

Key Data

  • 23221 persons were reached with cash assistance

  • Community engagement and accountability remains critical to reduce tensions within the communities

  • In a context of multiple, overlapping crises, information on selection criteria for beneficiaries is extremely critical for the success of the intervention

Ethiopian Red Cross provides cash and voucher assistance to people affected by a multitude of crisis. After a tragic accident, his ability to cover the basic needs of his family has been limited. A cash support from the Ethiopian Red Cross has given him much needed relief.

Outlook

The Swiss RC will strive further to assure that CVA is the priority response option wherever the context allows. The SRC will build capacities of partners to deliver at scale and technical expertise will be focused towards developing cross-sectoral CVA interventions. While in transitional shelter CVA is already used widely, the use of the tool will be expanded further to reach health and WASH outcomes.

For complex and long-term crises, linkages to social protection networks will be explored and showcased. The SRC will continue its engagement with Movement and external partners to contribute towards the CVA strategy and goal of delivering 50% of all humanitarian assistance using the CVA modality.

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