The effects of vouchers for essential household items on child health, mental health, resilience, and social cohesion among internally displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Background In May 2014, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), in partnership with the DRC Humanitarian Country-Based Pooled Fund (CBPF), requested qualifications from research teams interested in studying the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance in eastern Congo. CBPF and 3ie matched qualified research teams with humanitarian organizations that had previously expressed interest in the evaluation methods promoted by 3ie. Our research team was matched with the Rapid Response to Movements of Population (RRMP) program, jointly managed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The program that evolved into RRMP began in 2004, and is currently implemented in one-year cycles. RRMP8 (May 2017 – April 2018), the intervention phase under study, provided humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations wherever was necessary, especially in the conflict affected in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Tshopo, Haut Katanga, Tanganyika, and the Kasai region, who had fled from armed conflict, or had recently returned to their home communities after such displacement, or were hosting displaced people.
The RRMP8 budget was approximately 25 million USD and the program assisted nearly 1.4 million people.
To provide the highest quality scientific evidence within the available budget, we focused on one component of the RRMP program: the provision of Essential Household Items (EHI) via cash vouchers for use at UNICEF-organized EHI fairs. The total voucher amount ranged from $55-905 per household, depending on the specific intervention’s budget and the size of each household. We measured effects6 on four groups of outcomes that are central to RRMP’s mandate of improving health and well-being: 1) child physical health, 2) adult mental health, 3) social cohesion, and 4) resilience. Our research question was: What is the effect of humanitarian assistance (specifically the provision of vouchers for essential household items (EHI)) provided to recently displaced persons, and vulnerable host families, on health and well-being? While research on cash-based humanitarian studies has accelerated greatly in the last ten years, to our knowledge there are no studies on the effects of EHI or vouchers for EHI on these outcomes (Doocy and Tappis 2017).