Humanitarian Aid: Is Cash Transfer Feasible in Vanuatu?

In times of emergency, the use of cash transfer programmes has been rapidly used by Humanitarian organizations throughout the Globe and this has been on the rise.

It is now prime time to explore the feasibility of cash transfer in the Pacific. Vanuatu is fortunate to be a pilot site after some attempts in times of recent natural disasters.

However, the speed and effectiveness of cash based responses really depends on the level of preparedness before a time of emergency. Preparedness includes the identification and vetting of financial service providers for cash delivery, staff capacity building, the analysis of supply chains and market trends, the mapping of existing social protection schemes, the raising of awareness and gaining by in from government. This is what will is happening in Vanuatu in between January and September 2018 and will be coordinated by Oxfam in Vanuatu.

In order to better understand the viability, the potential application and scaling of cash transfers in the Vanuatu Context, a Cash Transfer Feasibility Study will be led by Oxfam in close collaboration with Government as a first step to check if Cash Transfers in times of emergency. Vanuatu is fortunate because Vanuatu is undertaking this feasibility study that is the first of its kind in the region, within the first six months of 2018.

With the help of the Australian Government (DFAT), the Australia Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) Disaster Ready Initiative, Oxfam in Vanuatu will be implementing the feasibility study as part of a series of Cash Transfer Program (CTP) preparedness activities in Vanuatu. This program builds on the regional Pacific Cash Preparedness Partnership between Oxfam, Save the Children, and the United Nations World Food Programme which is focussed on conducting a series of feasibility studies across Vanuatu, Fiji and Solomon Islands and is to raise awareness, capacity and expertise in can programming in the Region.

The objective of the Feasibility Study is to build a strong and context specific evidence based to guide and inform national discussions, awareness and preparedness initiatives related to the use of cash transfers and vouchers as a humanitarian assistance for response, recovery and resilience programmes.

This feasibility study should cover all the six (6) provinces and will seek to:

(a) Gather feedback at community and household level of the appropriateness of cash transfers;

(b) Conduct market and supply chain analysis;

(c) Collect information on critics of cash transfer programme implementation; and

(d) Review of Secondary data sources

The following determinations will also be made from data collected from all the six provinces:

(a) Where cash Transfers are a viable approach to the delivery of assistance in Vanuatu;

(b) To whom cans transfers may be appropriately delivered;

(c) When this type of assistance may be appropriate; and

(d) How (in what form) cash transfers will be delivered in Vanuatu.

There will be four stages in this study. Stage 1 will involve the Finalisation of Study Tool, selection and methodology and Stakeholder Consultation and Kick off Workshop. Stage 2 will involve Field level data collection across 80+ sites in six (6) provides. Stage 3 will be data analysis, summary report and preliminary results and a summary results Report and Stage 4 is the validation and dissemination workshops and stakeholder review and feedback and the publication of Final Report.

Qualitative and participatory research carried out by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in Kenya, Mozambique, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Uganda and Yemen, investigating individual and community perceptions of cash transfer programmes reveals that the money has a number of positive, and potentially transformative, effects on the lives of the individuals and families that receive them, including:

• People prefer to receive cash than other forms of assistance (food aid, public works, etc.) because it gives them the freedom to spend the money on the things they feel they need.

• People experience an increase in their quality of life e.g. they are able to construct permanent shelters, have three meals a day and pay health-related costs.

• More children are going to school as a result of receiving the transfer.

• Particularly vulnerable or excluded beneficiaries felt that they were now able to meet the basic needs of their families, giving them greater economic freedom, security and enhanced psychological well-being.

In order to scale up cash transfers in humanitarian aid, organisations need to:

• Invest in planning and preparedness;

• Explore delivering cash transfers through private sector systems, longer-term social protection systems and ;

• Improve coordination in the humanitarian system.

It would be interesting to see the risks that would be also identified in this study especially in a Subsistence Agricultural environment where communal work and family ties continues to be the backbone of the society and where services are scarce in very remote areas and communication and transportation lines does not cover 100 % of the population.

At the moment, there is no evidence to support any implementation of Cash Transfer Programmes during post emergency periods in Vanuatu and only after the feasibility study, there will be evidence to say yes Cash transfers are feasible in Vanuatu or no, cash transfers are not feasible in Vanuatu. No one knows, there may be different results in the three Melanesian countries that were chosen for the feasibility studies to be undertaken.

Having said that, it would be interesting to read the report after the Feasibility Study. This study would provide the baseline for any cash transfer programmes that would be implemented in Vanuatu in the future. Whilst there may be concerns, it is good that this feasibility study is undertaken to provide evidence on what can be done and where and how it can be done.

Accordingly, stakeholders in this feasibility study including Oxfam in Vanuatu should be congratulated on the efforts to initiate this feasibility study having witnessed a lot of relief items being destroyed after Cyclone Pam.

This may be due to several reasons and one may be the items being expired or not needed by people who have been affected by Cyclone Pam in 2015. Giving cash may be a way to empower those affected to decide on what they deemed to be needed as their needs cannot be decided by anyone else but themselves.

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