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Cash based transfer


While In-kind aid is still an important component of humanitarian responses, over the past few years cash-based transfers have increasingly been seen as a way to stop swamping markets with commodities that could cause livelihood and economic upset, as well as aid dependency. Other methods include government schemes (safety nets/social welfare payments), or foreign remittances from the diaspora.

Various methods exist for cash transfer:

  • Through banks and other financial institutions.
  • Through cash hand outs.
  • Through voucher schemes e-vouchers through SMS/internet.
  • Bank or other money transfers through SMS/internet.
Strategic or operational?


Basemap, baseline or situational?


When might it be produced?

If there is an existing scheme already in place then it will continue, but cash-based transfers mapping will primarily come after market assessments have been carried out. These assessments can be very simple, with the aim of understanding:

  • Market environment: e.g. indicators relating to access and transport to market, or security at markets.
  • Market availability: what you can buy at the market.
  • Structure and conduct: (a) what are the supply chains, what is the catchment of the market and, (b) are there any cartels operating or price setting?
  • Market performance price tracking: a very good indicator of supply against demand. If something is going wrong with supply and demand then prices will skyrocket (in a few cases if oversupply from food aid comes in, prices may collapse).
  • Household access: are households getting access to key commodities, and do they have the financial resources to buy them?
Intended audience

Agents who do cash-based transfers may be the relief operation coordination cluster themselves, their supporting international and local NGOs, or even private companies (e.g. Western Union).

Influence on humanitarian decisions

While in-kind aid will still be an important component, cash and vouchers are seen as an effective way to stop swamping markets with commodities that could cause livelihood and economic upset, as well as aid dependency.

Products should help addresses issues such as:

  • Where are cash transfers being made, and in what quantities?
  • What markets are operating where?
  • What is the catchment of a market?
  • What are commodity prices at each market, and how are these changing over time?
  • What has the impact of the disaster been on local food supplies?
  • How are these parameters expected to change over time?

Baseline - pre-disaster layers:

  • Market locations, size and characteristics.
  • Normal market catchments, derived from assessments: i.e. a boundary to show what the closest market to a location is.
  • Usual access to markets (accessibility layer): same as above but reflecting the distance to market as opposed to a boundary of the catchment.
  • Population characteristics: at an early stage totals, followed by age groups (identify old, young and baby), followed by vulnerability (poverty indices).
  • Existing safety benefits (more country level than geographical).
  • Existing partners/structure for cash /voucher distribution.
  • Existing partners/structure for voucher usage (traders/minimarts).
  • Logistics, prepositioning warehouses etc.


  • Assessment by mobile data collection of market assessment.
  • Financial system functioning status (situational data).
  • What commodities? Generally there is a need for an overview, not a detailed review of specific commodities, but there could also be a need for some specialist reviews (e.g. fish availability in coastal communities).
  • Impacts of type of emergency on food supply: this would be more on the complex emergency side – unpredictable and ongoing events.
  • Logistics: warehouses etc that are set up in the emergency.
  • Security/access issues: e.g. the blockages maps we already do – this has as much impact on the ability of traders to deliver food as relief operations do.

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