Supporting the Distribution of Humanitarian Aid
In times of disaster, humanitarian organizations often play a critical role in needs assessment and aid distribution to save lives and support recovery. Many of these organizations have found that when local markets are functioning and goods are available, the distribution of money rather than goods can be more effective for the people impacted and the area’s economic recovery. This has resulted in greater use of the “cash transfer” approach, which employs cash, paper vouchers, or electronic payments as methods.
To improve the speed, effectiveness and security of these programs, a consortium of humanitarian organizations formed the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) in 2005. Members include Oxfam GB, Save the Children, the British Red Cross, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and Action Against Hunger/ACF International. Visa, as part of its commitment to humanitarian aid, has teamed up with CaLP to support the organization’s work and provide guidance on the use of electronic payments.
CaLP’s work has included the development of a research paper for the field, which examines the use of new technology in humanitarian cash and voucher programming and the broader implications for humanitarian practice. Overall, the research concluded that e-payment systems offer a promising way to deliver aid to recipients with speed, precision and flexibility, even in challenging environments.
Response in the Philippines
In July 2011, intense rains caused flooding in the Philippine island of Mindanao, the second largest island in the country. More than 120,000 families were affected, along with 7,000 acres of crops. Visa, together with CaLP member Action Against Hunger/ACF International and Philippine Veterans Bank, delivered a voucher program using Visa prepaid cards to a subset of the families affected. The beneficiaries used the prepaid cards to purchase needed goods at participating supermarkets in the area.
The program rolled out in eight days, and two monthly fund transfers were made to the recipients via the Visa prepaid cards. Action Against Hunger/ACF International considered the prepaid cards to be practical and scalable for repeated distributions.
According to the Cash Learning Partnership, “Visa’s support is helping our consortium provide a platform for coordination, research and knowledge sharing around cash-transfer programs. Together, we hope to make a significant contribution to delivering humanitarian cash transfers more efficiently, effectively and securely.”