The Central African Republic (CAR) has been going through a complex crisis for the past five years, affecting the entire population. More than 50% of the population depends on humanitarian aid. The vast majority of CAR refugees (UNHCR, June 2018), a total of 242,052 people, are in Cameroon. The prolonged stay of CAR refugees has a negative impact on social cohesion in the border areas and creates pressure on the basic social infrastructure of the state. A recent analysis by Plan International of project communities in Cameroon showed that refugee households suffer even more from extreme poverty than host households.
With an aim of supporting the most vulnerable households affected by conflict (particularly Gender Based Violence survivors) through community infrastructures on child protection, promoting inclusive and adapted educational opportunities and contributing to meet the basic needs; Plan International Cameroon and CAR with funding from BMZ- German Ministry for economic cooperation (through Plan International Germany) are implementing a cross-border project in two Sub-Prefectures of the eastern region of Cameroon and 4 Sub-Prefectures of CAR with context specific Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) modalities to support the target beneficiaries.
A detailed feasibility study was conducted in both the countries evaluating the different enabling parameters (preconditions) as to understand the suitability of CVA in relation to protection, education and livelihood outcomes.
The study adopted a mix of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to gather data across 2 divisions in Cameroon and 4 sub-prefectures in CAR for this study. Primary data were collected through Focus Group Discussions; individual interviews with traders; Key Informant Interviews (KII) with local authorities, trainers, market committee and community leaders including transact walk along the markets. The study was led by Plan International’s global lead on Cash and Voucher Assistance in Cameroon and Deployable Cash and Market in emergencies specialist in CAR with support from external enumerators (only for Cameroon) and project staff. Inputs were received from child protection, gender based violence, education, livelihood, food security, nutrition, cash; information technology; monitoring and evaluation focal points from the country team.
The following key determinants, which guide whether the cash and /or voucher in particular areas are feasible or not were carefully assessed, analyzed and thereby reached to a conclusion.
General CVA environment in the country and acceptance of cash and voucher by the government and the communities
Functional market with adequate stock to absorb increased demand, robust supply chain, relatively stable price of the commodities.
Willingness of the traders to participate in the CVA intervention.
Availability of financial service providers and their willingness to collaborate with the program.
Coordination with peer agencies to harmonize the CVA practices and avoid possible duplication.
Project implementation capacity of the organization and the implementing partners.
Favourable security situation in the project areas with appropriate risk assessment in place.
The feasibility study found cash and/or voucher to be highly feasible for the project interventions in order to achieve the protection, education and livelihoods outcomes both in CAR and outcomes in Cameroon. Humanitarian agencies have been undertaking CVA covering multiple needs of the affected population. There is a positive appetite for CVA by all stakeholder including the communities, humanitarian agencies, donors, financial service providers and authorities. The extent to which CVA has already been used in past and current humanitarian response is a strong indicator of the feasibility of using the modality in future emergencies.
The study also indicated existing and potential livelihood activities, opportunities, vocational training framework (time frame and modality) and start-up grants support and made a set of recommendations. It is clear that the approach to use cash/voucher in humanitarian response in both Cameroon and CAR is evolving from “adhoc” to a “reference” modality of response. However, there are large rooms for improvement where the approach can be uniform through larger coordination among the humanitarian agencies or a cash coordination mechanism.