Afghanistan Survey


Afghanistan Survey


Perceptions of Cash-Based Aid in Afghanistan

Our survey examined how people affected by crisis perceive the relevance and effectiveness of cash transfers, both in their own right and compared to other forms of aid.

The map shows humanitarian cash transfer programming in Afghanistan around the time of our survey, in early 2017. See the background section below for more information on cash transfer programming in Afghanistan.

OCHA Afghanistan, 2017

OCHA Afghanistan, 2017


We interviewed some 600 people in Kabul, Nangarhar, and Helmand. While 68% received some sort of unrestricted cash assistance, the sample included people who received other types of aid, such as food (19%) and vouchers (18%). Those who received cash did so mostly through one-off grants. The most common transfer modality was cash in hand.


Cash was seen as more relevant compared to other forms of aid

People who received cash scored the relevance of aid higher in meeting their basic needs than those who did not. The more cash people receive, the more relevant the assistance is perceived to be.


Women rank cash higher than men

When asked how aid agencies can best support people in need, respondents most commonly mentioned cash or a mix of cash and other support.

Afghanistan-graphics_preferred form of aid.png

The government was wrongly seen as major provider of cash-based assistance

Misconceptions were likely due to government presence during cash assessments and distribution.


Corruption remained a concern for cash-recipients

Of all aid recipients, 35% said 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.


Cash was seen to affect community relations more than other types of aid

In focus groups, most participants explained that the total value of cash provided to returnees and others affected by crisis is not enough to substantially alter relationships among communities, or between displaced people and host communities. Respondents to the survey were split on whether cash-based aid has improved or worsened the atmosphere, but see more of a difference than with other types of support.



Cash transfers have become an increasingly important modality to assit displaced people in Afghanistan, including returnees from Pakistan. 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 was 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 determined 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) began 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 began 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.



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 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. Data was collected by Sayara Research International. 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.

Closed survey questions used a 1-5 Likert scale to quantify answers. 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 of 1 to 5.