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WFP Evidence Summary: Cash-based transfers - Lessons from evaluations

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Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Cash is an increasing part of WFP’s global portfolio. In 2019, WFP transferred US$ 2.1 billion to nearly 28 million people in 64 countries across the world - 38 percent of total assistance.

Cash transfers have many forms. Depending on the context, they can be distributed as physical bank notes; e-money; mobile money; or through debit cards or value vouchers redeemable at locally contracted shops. Cash transfers function as part of a wider ‘system’ of support, rather than forming only a single product provided to a beneficiary.

Cash-based responses can play a critical role in very challenging contexts, such as under conflict conditions. They can help strengthen local markets; build national capacities; and empower individuals and their families to make choices that improve their food security and well-being.

Cash transfer programmes are also at the frontline of national governments’ responses to COVID-19. WFP supports several governments with cash as part of social protection actions or government-to-person payments. These approaches help mitigate the worst socio-economic effects of the crisis.

The Office of Evaluation has commissioned this note to share the learning from WFP-commissioned evaluations, as well as the wider inter-agency humanitarian evaluation system. The evaluations were published between 2014 and 2020. They address both conditional and unconditional cash transfers, using cash, voucher and combined modalities. The evaluations took place in many countries, including Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Syria, El Salvador, Guatemala, Somalia and others.

This note provides twelve key lessons to help enhance the positive effects of cash-based programmes, and to reduce any risks which might impede effectiveness. It also identifies six main effects of cash transfer programmes implemented by WFP.