Moving Forward with Cash in Haiti: A Review of Cash-Based Interventions During Hurricane Matthew Response in Haiti
On October 6th, 2016, category 4 Hurricane Matthew touched Haitian soil and left in its wake more than 1.4 million people in need of urgent assistance. The humanitarian community quickly mobilized to support the Government of Haiti in relief and recovery efforts, with many actors using cash as a preferred intervention modality. In many contexts worldwide, cash-based responses have proven to be an effective and efficient method of addressing the needs of disaster affected populations. Two years post-Matthew, international and local humanitarian institutions have lingering questions concerning what tangible lessons came from the hurricane response, and where the humanitarian sector needs to improve for the future. Mercy Corps, with funding from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) has conducted an extensive review of lessons learned and contextual data, combined with key informant interviews and workshops to compile, analyze and present core lessons from the Hurricane Matthew cash-based response.
Mercy Corps compiled and reviewed over 50 reports on cash responses in the Haitian context, and conducted extensive secondary analysis of 17 of these reports that were directly related to Hurricane Matthew. As a benchmark for best-in-class cash transfer programming, Mercy Corps referred to industry standards developed by the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP). Following the literature review and analysis, Mercy Corps conducted a workshop with 23 members of the Haiti Cash-Based Transfer Working Group (CBTWG) to review results and make final recommendations, which have been included in this report.
This study’s findings for many aspects of cash-based responses in Haiti were similar to global trends in gaps and operational challenges faced by implementing institutions. However, some Haiti-specific challenges and opportunities arose. Cash responders cited limited investment from and reduced competition within the private sector (especially mobile network operators), with underdeveloped services and technologies diminishing the efficiency of private partnerships for cash transfers. Considering hurricane-related impacts in rural communities, lack of infrastructure posed a challenge to reaching highly vulnerable and highly affected communities. Coordination mechanisms were late to be established and insufficiently organized to adequately address the needs of the multitude of actors conducting large-scale cash programs (some of whom were implementing cash for the first time in country). On a positive note, centralized government institutions provided detailed market and needs data and acceptable standards for emergency response, although their exposure to and experience in cash-based assistance was low.
Additional findings that may be more common to cash programming around the world include challenges throughout all aspects of implementation. Many organizations had no existing cash capacity in country and venturing into this new modality stretched their operational capacity resulting in programs of varying quality. While off-the-shelf tools were available for needs assessments and in-depth market studies were conducted, data was often inadequately used to make a compelling case for cash modalities. There was no evidence in the reports that organizations considered feasibility of cash programming before implementation. When designing interventions, organizations preferred speed of set-up, ease of implementation, and existing donor priorities to decide on modalities and methods. Mobile transfers were underutilized due to real constraints related to unreliable mobile networks, lack of experience (on the side of Mobile Network Operators as well as cash responders), and lack of agent networks. Cash for Work programming may have come too soon, with some actors criticizing the potentially perverse incentives that this modality created to move away from community service and joint clean-up efforts, instead of providing new and/or improved infrastructures that added value to the communities. In many cases, local leaders were informed or consulted, but not integrated directly into the heart of the response. Finally, programmatic evaluation data was either not collected or not shared that could indicate the extent to which cash-based assistance was effective in supporting communities to cope with the impacts of the hurricane in the way the funds had been intended.
The post-Matthew cash response provided compelling examples of success related to the sharing of collective organizational capacity beyond individual institutions. Vulnerability analyses and market evaluations were conducted and shared shortly after the hurricane. While challenging at times, integration of Financial Service Providers (FSPs) resulted in process improvements and improved quality of cash delivery. The government and sectoral groups shared sector-specific standards and guidance that supported cash transfers. A handful of actors integrated gender standards and analyses into their programming to promote equitable outcomes among men, women, boys and girls. Where Finally, there was a correlation between organizations working together to conduct post-distribution monitoring and improve throughout the response and the effectiveness of monitoring and evaluation.
This study provides a clear picture of prior challenges for cash interventions in Haiti, but also sheds light on the opportunity for success when a wide range of humanitarian actors move forward together to prepare and respond. High-level recommendations from this program include:
Continued capacity building around cash-based assistance, especially in departments outside of Port-au-Prince, and especially with local government and community-based organizations.
Increased partnership with FSPs before, during, and after major disasters, including sharing events, improved Standard Operating Procedures, and transparent coverage data.
Continued rigor in the collection and sharing of market data before, during and after major disasters.
Further investment in adaptable off-the-shelf tools, including needs and market assessments, post- distribution monitoring, and evaluation forms and methodologies.
Wider sharing and use of Minimum Expenditure Basket data to support increased rigor in transfer amount calculations.
Increased effort in coordination during cash-based responses, including the sharing of detailed implementation plans, intervention areas, and real-time lessons learned.
Improved design of and budgeting for monitoring and evaluation of cash-based assistance.