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Cash transfers by HI: a vital addition to humanitarian aid


Emergency | Health | International | PUBLISHED ON December 8th 2020
Venezuelan refugee camp in Colombia. Two hundred families benefited from a cash transfer from HI.

Venezuelan refugee camp in Colombia. Two hundred families benefited from a cash transfer from HI. | © Coalición LACRMD

HI provides cash transfers as part of its humanitarian assistance. This new form of aid is vital in vulnerable countries suffering the disastrous social impact of Covid-19.

Giving money directly to people who rely on humanitarian aid is a fast and targeted way to meet the basic needs of vulnerable people.


Who benefits from cash transfers?

This aid is provided to people in serious humanitarian and emergency situations, such as refugee families or families living in extreme poverty due to a natural disaster or food crisis. These families have often already been provided with humanitarian aid - a temporary shelter, food kits or access to medical care, for example - by HI or its partners. Recipients must meet certain conditions, called "vulnerability criteria”. These include age (an elderly, isolated person, for example), gender (a single woman with children), or an existing disability. This helps us work out who gets priority.


How does it work?

Cash is often transferred through a company such as Western Union. HI tells people by telephone that they can withdraw a specific amount of money at a special counter by showing a proof of identity. The money may be a one-off payment or paid in instalments, depending on the seriousness of the household's situation. Amounts vary according to the cost of living in each country and the number of people in a household - €20 per person in Madagascar, for example, compared to €70 in Colombia. We use computer data to track withdrawals. We are also in constant touch with beneficiaries to solve any problems they may have.


Why cash transfers?

Most people given a cash transfer have already received other kinds of assistance. Cash transfers can meet needs not generally covered by humanitarian aid, such as paying the rent. An NGO might provide temporary shelter, for example, but rarely helps pay the rent. Some refugees rent somewhere to live in a host country, such as in Lebanon, where many Syrian refugees rent houses. Cash transfers meet essential needs not already covered, such as buying food or medicine for serious health problems, like a chronic disease. Many people do not have health coverage or do not have access to free public health care because they do not yet have refugee status in a certain country, for example, or for other status-related reasons.


Do we know how cash is being used?

We always carry out assessments on samples of people. The first items people buy are always food, housing or medicine, all of which are vital needs.

Cash transfer allows us to support the fragile local economy.

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