Cash transfer programming is widely accepted by the international humanitarian community as a positive driver of change. But just how is it perceived by the intended beneficiaries of this cash revolution? To find out, Ground Truth Solutions and the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) have launched the Cash Barometer.
Going beyond project-specific feedback on what is purchased or consumed, the Cash Barometer combines standardised face-to-face surveys with qualitative data collection to monitor perceptions about the relevance and effectiveness of cash transfers.
By amplifying the voice of those receiving cash and others affected by crisis, the goal is to help aid agencies and donors realise the transformational potential of cash in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
This page is a beta version presenting results from our initial pilot in Afghanistan. It will be refined based on your feedback.
In 2016, aid agencies implemented cash-based programmes in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and they remain committed to increasing cash distributions in 2017. In the first quarter, agencies provided $4 million in multipurpose cash grants to some 100,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and returnees from Pakistan. These groups are the focus of our pilot survey. The map below shows humanitarian cash transfer programming during the first quarter of 2017.
Our sample included some 600 people in Kabul, Nangarhar, and Helmand. While most received some sort of cash assistance, the sample included people who received other types of aid. The breakdown is as follows:
Survey respondents received mostly one-off, unconditional cash grants. The most common transfer modality was cash in hand.
We asked field staff of aid agencies in Afghanistan if they believe cash programmes lead to better outcomes. A majority (75%) responded positively.
Staff from UN and international NGOs are more positive than their colleagues from national NGOs. The 15% of respondents who disagree cite concerns about aid dependency, fraud, and misuse of cash-based assistance.
Most prefer cash to other forms of assistance. Women show a stronger preference for cash compared to men.
People who received cash scored the relevance of aid higher in meeting their basic needs than those who did not.
We asked affected people whether the support they received will allow them to live without aid in the future. Across all aid types, around half of respondents reply positively and half negatively. People receiving cash are marginally more optimistic.
As shown in the previous section, those receiving greater amounts rate the importance of cash assistance higher relative to other support and income. However, they do not feel more prepared to live without aid in the future.
Cash is seen as being the best way to support those most in need. However, corruption remains a major concern. Of all aid recipients, 35% say people sometimes or most of the time must pay bribes or offer favours to influential people in order to receive aid. The data suggests that people who received cash are more concerned about these issues than those who received in-kind aid only. Focus groups point to the importance of influential connections in accessing cash support.
Women report that they are less involved than men in aid agencies’ decisions about aid. Men say they are “sometimes” involved, while women consider such involvement “rare.” Correspondingly, women say they know less about how agencies decide who receives support and who does not. This gender gap applies to all types of aid.
To respond to some of the initial questions arising from our pilot in Afghanistan, we plan to conduct additional focus group discussions in the summer of 2017. We will also follow-up with select respondents via phone to gain a better understanding of how the support they receive – both cash and in-kind – is affecting their situation over time.
The Cash Barometer for Afghanistan is the first of what we hope will be annual surveys undertaken in all humanitarian contexts where cash has become an important part of aid provision. Our intention is to ensure that organisations responsible for cash transfer programmes – donors who provide the resources and the humanitarian community more broadly – can take decisions based on a better understanding of the user and non-user perspectives.
The next step is to get feedback on the overall model based on the findings presented here.
Your feedback will enable us to design a Cash Barometer that serves as a valuable tool for practitioners on the ground as well as those shaping policy at the international level. So do let us have your suggestions on how to improve the Cash Barometer over coming iterations. Also, please let us know if you can share existing monitoring data from your own organisations’ work, or if you would like to discuss any other aspect of the work presented here:
For the pilot presented here, we conducted a survey with 598 people in various locations in Kabul, Nangarhar, and Helmand provinces in May 2017. In addition, four focus group discussions with 26 participants were held in the same provinces. Data on field staff perceptions presented on this page also uses select findings from previous surveys.
The demographic composition of the sample is illustrated below:
The sampling strategy was designed to provide a reliable overview of the main types of cash transfer programming in Afghanistan, thus focusing on IDPs and returnees from Pakistan.
While some respondents report receiving vouchers in addition to cash, the survey did not produce enough specific responses on vouchers to include meaningful breakdowns about this modality in our analysis.
Sampling locations were pre-identified to include areas with a high density of cash-based assistance, as visible from our previous survey and existing documentation from aid agencies. In Kabul, this included Botkhak and other areas where IDPs and returnees have settled. In Nangahar, data was collected in Shikhi Misri, Mahajirino Camp (IDPs), Siasang, Samarkhil in Behsoud, Shaheedano Meena in Rodat and Kabul Camp in Rodat, as well as around a UNHCR encashment center in Torkham. In Helmand, data collection focused on IDP communities in Lashkargah.
Our data collection partner, Sayara Research International, worked with three field supervisors overseeing nine enumerators (six male, three female).
We developed the Cash Barometer instruments based on experience with nation-wide surveys that looked at how affected people and aid staff perceive the humanitarian response more broadly across a range of humanitarian crises. Draft instruments were reviewed by a group of experts on humanitarian cash transfers, and were tested with aid recipients and non-recipients in Kabul and Nangarhar. Closed survey questions used a 1-5 Likert scale to quantify answers. The survey can be downloaded here.
The bar charts used on this site show the distribution (in %) of answer options chosen for a particular question – with colours ranging from dark red for negative answers to dark green for positive ones. The mean score is also shown for each question on a scale from 1 to 5.
Afghanistan’s protracted conflict continues to expose households to violence in all regions of the country. In 2016 there were some 3,500 civilian deaths and 7,900 injuries, the highest number of casualties recorded in the past seven years.
Conflict displaced almost 700,000 individuals in 2016; another 60,000 Afghans have been forced to move since April 2017. As a result, almost a third of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance.
Against this backdrop, growing regional tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have triggered intensified repatriation efforts by the Pakistani government. In 2016, some 225,000 undocumented returnees and 380,000 registered refugees returned to Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Cash and Voucher Working Group (CVWG) aims to ensure that cash-based interventions are coordinated, context-specific, and follow a common rationale that avoids harming the affected population. This inter-cluster working group is currently co-chaired by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the World Food Programme.
The UNHCR is the single largest provider of cash and vouchers, with some $150 million distributed in 2016. Their distribution of one-off, voluntary repatriation grants for returnees from Pakistan was by far the largest cash initiative in Afghanistan. Grants reached more than 350,000 returnees with amounts averaging $200 per person in the first half of 2016 and $400 in the second, while dropping back to an average of $200 in 2017.
The Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM), funded by ECHO, is composed of seven international NGOs that collectively used cash as the default modality for responding to the needs of some 220,000 people in 2016. ERM partners determine the cash transfer value through a unified framework based on local prices. Assistance per household amounted to some $60 for non-food items and $110 for food.
After long-standing experience with e-vouchers, the World Food Programme (WFP) has begun transitioning to unrestricted cash transfers in preparation for a more general shift towards cash. For 2017, WFP committed to provide 70% of its assistance in Afghanistan in the form of cash transfers.
Hawala networks are the transfer modality of choice for humanitarian one-off emergency cash transfers in Afghanistan. Longer-term cash assistance, which involves several transfers, is generally done through mobile phones. Hawala networks are informal value-transfer systems that depend on mutual trust among a large number of Hawala brokers (Hawaladors). This system of debt and credit is constantly renegotiated and enables swift transfers of cash between individuals without moving physical money.
In 2017, several aid agencies in Afghanistan have begun testing an approach called the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket to determine transfer amounts. This is based on an agreed basket of basic goods and services currently valued at $220 (AFN 15,000) per household per month.