1. Cash and Voucher Assistance

1. Introduction

For Help Contact:
Holly Welcome Radice
Email: Holly.Radice@care.org
Sani Dan Aoude
Email: Sani.DanAoude@care.org
Sahara Dahir Ibrahim
Email: Sahara.Ibrahim@care.org

The use of cash and voucher assistance (CVA) has seen a considerable expansion within humanitarian responses at large, as well as with CARE’s work in emergencies.  CVA is a tool that can be used to deliver outcomes in each sector, including Food and Nutrition Security, Agricultural Livelihoods, WASH, Shelter, and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. CVA can also be implemented as multi-purpose cash assistance, which can produce outcomes across different sectors.

Refer to Annex 27.1

Basic Needs: The concept of basic needs refers to the essential goods, utilities, services or resources required on a regular or seasonal basis by households for ensuring long term survival AND minimum living standards, without resorting to negative coping mechanisms or compromising their health, dignity and essential livelihood assets.
Assistance to address basic needs might feasibly be delivered through a range of modalities, including cash, vouchers, in-kind and services

Cash Assistance: The provision of unrestricted assistance in the form of money – either physical currency or e-cash – to recipients (individuals, households or communities). The terms ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ should be used when referring specifically to cash transfers only (i.e. ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ should not be used to mean ‘cash and voucher assistance’).

Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA): CVA refers to all programs where cash transfers or vouchers for goods or services are directly provided to recipients. In the context of humanitarian assistance, the term is used to refer to the provision of cash transfers or vouchers given to individuals, household or community recipients; not to governments or other state actors. This excludes remittances and microfinance in humanitarian interventions (although microfinance and money transfer institutions may be used for the actual delivery of cash).
The terms ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ should be used when referring specifically to cash transfers only (i.e. ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ should not be used to mean ‘cash and voucher assistance’).
This term has several synonyms (see Cash Based Interventions, Cash Based Assistance, and Cash Transfer Programming). Cash and Voucher Assistance is the recommended term.

Commodity VoucherCommodity vouchers are exchanged for a fixed quantity and quality of specified goods or services at participating vendors. Commodity vouchers share some similarities with in-kind aid in that they restrict and specify the assistance received.

Conditionality: Conditionality refers to prerequisite activities or obligations that a recipient must fulfil in order to receive assistance. Conditions can in principle be used with any kind of transfer (cash, vouchers, in-kind, service delivery) depending on the intervention design and objectives. Some interventions might require recipients to achieve agreed outputs as a condition of receiving subsequent tranches. Note that conditionality is distinct from restriction (how assistance is used) and targeting (criteria for selecting recipients).
Types of condition include attending school, building a shelter, attending nutrition screenings, undertaking work, training, etc. Cash for work/assets/training are all forms of conditional transfer.

Delivery Mechanism:  Means of delivering a cash or voucher transfer (e.g. smart card, mobile money transfer, cash in hand, cheque, ATM card, etc.).

E-Cash: Any electronic substitute for the direct transfer of physical currency that provides full, unrestricted flexibility for purchases. It may be stored, spent, and/or received through a mobile phone, prepaid ATM/debit card or other electronic transfer. E-cash transfers will usually provide the option to withdraw funds as physical cash if required.

E-Transfer:  A digital transfer of money or e-vouchers from the implementing agency to a recipient. E-transfers provide access to cash, goods and/or services through mobile devices, electronic vouchers, or cards (e.g., prepaid, ATM, smart, credit or debit cards). E-transfers may also be referred to as digital payments; these are umbrella terms for e-cash and e-vouchers.

E-Voucher: A card or code that is electronically redeemed at a participating vendor. E-vouchers can represent monetary or commodity value and are stored and redeemed using a range of electronic devices (e.g. mobile phone, smart card, POS device).

In-kind Assistance: Humanitarian assistance provided in the form of physical goods or commodities. In-kind assistance is restricted by default as recipients are not able to choose what they are given.

Intersectoral: A programming or decision-making process, approach or activity involving the engagement, inputs and collaboration of multiple sectors together. An intersectoral approach is important in enabling needs to be assessed, analysed and addressed holistically, including facilitating interventions which aim to address multiple needs across more than one sector simultaneously.

Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB):  A Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) requires the identification and quantification of basic needs items and services that can be monetized and are accessible through local markets and services. Items and services included in an MEB are those that households in a given context are likely to prioritize, on a regular or seasonal basis. An MEB is inherently multisectoral and based on the average cost of the items composing the basket. It can be calculated for various sizes of households.

Modality: Modality refers to the form of assistance – e.g. cash transfer, vouchers, in-kind, service delivery, or a combination (modalities). This can include both direct transfers to household level, and assistance provided at a more general or community level e.g. health services, WASH infrastructure.

Response Analysis: The link between situational analysis (broadly speaking, needs assessment and other contextual information) and programme design. It involves the selection of programme response options, modalities and target groups; and should be informed by considerations of appropriateness and feasibility and should simultaneously address needs while analysing and minimizing potential harmful side-effects. [Maxwell, D. 2013]

Restriction: Restriction refers to limits on the use of assistance by recipients. Restrictions apply to the range of goods and services that the assistance can be used to purchase, and the places where it can be used. The degree of restriction may vary – from the requirement to buy specific items, to buying from a general category of goods or services.
Vouchers are restricted by default since they are inherently limited in where and how they can be used. In-kind assistance is also restricted. Cash transfers are unrestricted in terms of use by recipients.
Note that restrictions are distinct from conditions, which apply only to activities that must be fulfilled in order to receive assistance.

Sector-Specific Intervention: This refers to an intervention designed to achieve sector-specific objectives. Sector-specific assistance can be conditional or unconditional. Vouchers (restricted transfers) might be used to limit expenditure to items and services contributing to achieve specific sectoral objectives. Sector specific interventions delivered through cash transfers might be designed to influence how recipients spend them, which is called labelling.

Service Delivery: The provision of services to affected populations e.g. water and sanitation, healthcare, education, protection, legal, etc. In crisis contexts humanitarian agencies might independently deliver services, or work in partnership with state/public service providers.

Unconditional Transfer: Unconditional transfers are provided without the recipient having to do anything in order to receive the assistance.

Value Voucher: A value voucher has a denominated cash value and can be exchanged with participating vendors for goods or services of an equivalent monetary cost. Value vouchers tend to provide relatively greater flexibility and choice than commodity vouchers but are still inherently restricted as they can only be exchanged with designated vendors.

Voucher: A paper, token or e-voucher that can be exchanged for a set quantity or value of goods or services, denominated either as a cash value (e.g. $15) or predetermined commodities (e.g. 5 kg maize) or specific services (e.g. milling of 5 kg of maize), or a combination of value and commodities. Vouchers are restricted by default, although the degree of restriction will vary based on the programme design and type of voucher. They are redeemable with preselected vendors or in ‘fairs’ created by the implementing agency. The terms vouchers, stamps, or coupons might be used interchangeably. 


3.1 CVA Situation Analysis

3.2 Market Analysis

3.3 Gender Analysis

3.4 Partner Capacity Assessment

3.5 Assessment and Selection of Financial Service Providers

Once preliminary assessments and analyses (Section II above) are complete, CARE staff should adhere to the following process in designing cash transfer programs:

  1. Determine appropriateness of CVA;
  2. Choose CVA modality;
  3. Set grant amounts and delivery frequency;
  4. Choose payment mechanism.

4.1 Appropriateness of CVA

4.2 CVA Modality

4.3 Grant Amount Frequency

4.4 Payment

Once the details of program design are set, program implementation includes:

  1. Contracting payment agent;
  2. Targeting beneficiaries;
  3. Setting up beneficiary registration and identification systems;
  4. Distributing cash and vouchers;
  5. Coordinating with others.

5.1 Contract the Payment Agent

5.2 Target Beneficiaries

5.3 Set up beneficiary registration and identification system

5.4 Distribute cash and vouchers

5.5 Coordinate with others

6.1 Impact, outcome and process monitoring

6.2 Market monitoring

6.3 Feedback and complaint mechanism

  • Ensure Cash for Work is inclusive: When Cash for Work is selected, the type of work being offered to the beneficiaries should allow all groups to access the scheme (including elderly or people living with disability) or provision should be made for a percentage of unconditional grants for the households not able to work.
  • Ensure children headed household have access to assistance. This can especially be the case when banking instruments are considered. When ATM cards or bank accounts are used to deliver the payment, they are often only accessible to the person above 18. In this case alternatives should be found so that children headed household could still be assisted.

When Cash for Work is considered a minimum age should be set to be able to take part in the CfW scheme. This age limit will be context specific but the International Labour Organisation recommends 15 years as the minimum age for Cash for Work. For more information refer to: Save the Children, Child Safeguarding in Cash Transfer Programming.

  • Risk and opportunities of technology and e-transfer. When mobile phone is being considered to deliver the payment, it can increased accountability towards beneficiaries, for example, through an easier direct access to CARE team members. However access to technology can also represent a barrier for some beneficiaries who have a low technical literacy. When technology is being consider to deliver the payment, ensure the beneficiaries can access the transfer and get support to do so in case of need.
  • Engage both men and women in CVA targeting only women. This can be done through information and awareness raising and encourage their participation into design and implementation. Without taking into consideration gender roles and power relations, CVA could potentially increase intra household violence and add an additional burden on women in terms of workload and/or social pressure.
  • Communicate clearly with communities. CVA should accompanied by a robust communication with communities strategy, which should clearly outline the criteria for targeting, why women are the main beneficiaries (if this is the case), and what the expectations are associated with this targeting. CVA are unlikely to be successful when the community does not agree with criteria or processes for beneficiary selection.
  • Monitor women, children, elderly and people living with disabilities well-being. This is done to ensure the CVA is doing them no harm.