Research Terms of Reference: Cash Feasibility Analysis, SYR2106, Syria (May 2021, V1)


2. Rationale

2.1. Background

As the crisis in Syria enters its tenth consecutive year, more than half of the country’s pre-war population has been displaced. The humanitarian situation for people in northwest Syria (NWS) and northeast Syria (NES) remains severe, as the impact of COVID-19 and devaluation of the Syrian Pound (SYP) are putting further strain on the population. There is a continuing need for a widespread humanitarian response. Between January and December 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reached 18,147 individuals in Syria and distributed 4.8 million United States Dollars (USD) in the form of humanitarian multipurpose cash (MPC). UNOCHA estimated that in NWS in the month of March 2021 alone, humanitarian actors distributed 3.6 million USD in MPC to 216,100 individuals in 109 communities affected by crisis in Idleb and Aleppo governorates, where cash assistance is generally considered to be a feasible, flexible and appropriate alternative to in-kind aid. In a context of uncertainty over the renewal of the cross-border resolution allowing trans-shipments through the border crossing Bab Al-Hawa, a larger shift towards extensively investigating cash-based modality programming in Syria has begun, e.g. the Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL) Cluster in NWS is requesting a CVA program design training while the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have started a cash-based transfer (CBT) pilot.

However, there are several information gaps, for which REACH data in combination with a wider literature review can be useful to inform further investigations into CVA programming in both NWS and NES. Specifically, in the context of currency volatility and continuing SYP depreciation in both NWS and NES, as evidenced in continuing REACH assessments, 4 larger market changes around currency usage in NWS and NES5 have taken place. This may have changed aspects of demand and accessibility in markets themselves, as well as changing the currencies and amounts of cash communities may need to access in CVA programming. There is thus a need for a comprehensive aggregation of existing evidence of the feasibility of CVA programming in terms of: 1) beneficiary modality preferences and needs, 2) market functionality in terms of capacity and liquidity of financial service providers, and 3) commodity quality and availability. Finally, it is warranted to have an aggregation of the existing evidence of the impact of: 4) potential issues such as inflation, product quality and availability and multiple currencies in use, CVA protection issues and security risks in CVA programming