Cash‐based approaches in humanitarian emergencies

Added April 18, 2020

Citation: Doocy S, Tappis H. Cash‐based approaches in humanitarian emergencies: a systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2017; 17

What is this: Many countries are adopting cash transfers to households suffering a loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic. Existing research into the effects of cash-based approaches in humanitarian emergencies may provide evidence to inform these strategies.

In this Campbell systematic review, the authors searched for research assessing the effects of cash‐based approaches on individual and household outcomes in humanitarian emergencies. They restricted their searches to studies published from 2000 and did the search in November 2014. They summarised the evidence from 5 studies of effects, 10 studies of efficiency and 108 studies of barriers and facilitators to implementation of cash‐based humanitarian assistance.

What was found: Cash transfers can be an efficient strategy for providing humanitarian assistance.

Unconditional cash transfers led to greater improvements in dietary diversity and quality than food transfers, but food transfers are more successful in increasing per capita caloric intake than unconditional cash transfers and vouchers.

Unconditional cash transfers may be more effective than vouchers in increasing household savings, and equally effective in increasing household asset ownership.

Mobile transfers may be a more successful asset protection mechanism than physical cash transfers. They have low variables costs, but a large fixed, start-up cost especially if such a system is not already in place.

Providing vouchers rather than cash or food, especially restricted vouchers, is costly to set up but cash transfers typically require the recipient to travel somewhere to collect the transfer, which may not be desirable or possible under movement restrictions.

What’s uncertain: The most appropriate distribution system for each country or setting is uncertain.


Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the coronavirus (COVID-19) but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the basis of this summary alone.