Most of the research into cash and vouchers in food assistance up to now has focused on their impacts on nutrition and the local economy. A new study by WFP and UNHCR suggests they also have benefits in the realm of protection. WFP Policy Officer Gina Pattugalan provides an overview of the report.
With cash and voucher transfers increasing as a form of humanitarian assistance, WFP and UNHCR teamed up to study the potential protection and gender impact of such transfers. While much study had been done about economic and market impacts of cash and voucher transfers, there was less focus on the human dimensions of such transfers: examining dignity and empowerment of beneficiaries, beneficiary safety, and whether and how beneficiaries’ access to assistance as well as gender dynamics and community relations, and beneficiary preferences.
Examining Protection and Gender in Cash and Voucher Transfers
The eight-country study revealed that many of the protection concerns related to cash and vouchers, while legitimate, could be addressed with careful programming. Many of the protection concerns found in the study also existed with in-kind assistance. This suggests the need to move away from thinking of cash and vouchers in isolation, and focus on how programme design can best incorporate and, where possible, promote protection outcomes.
Moreover, there were many advantages found with the use of cash and vouchers from a protection perspective – including providing the beneficiaries with some sense of dignity and choice. Overwhelmingly, beneficiaries interviewed preferred receiving cash as it enabled them to prioritize their own needs.
One of the core advantages of cash is the flexibility it offers through its cross-sectorial nature. Humanitarian agencies with sector-specific mandates should not be afraid to embrace these advantages. Viewing cash and vouchers as one tool in a broader assistance strategy could enhance the protective impacts of assistance.