Cash transfer programming

Since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the humanitarian sector at large has gone through a progressive shift from distributing goods and in-kind assistance to increasingly using cash transfers as programming modality in times of emergencies and for recovery, in both conflict and disaster contexts

In the right context – when local markets are functioning and able to meet demand – cash transfers can serve as an appropriate and powerful alternative to direct distributions of food and non-food items (also known as in-kind assistance. Firstly, cash transfer programming can be a more dignified and flexible form of assistance, since beneficiaries have the freedom to choose what they need, which can give them a sense of restored power over their immediate situation. Additionally, in the modern world, most households depend on cash to some extent. When aid is given in kind, households are often forced to seek cash in ways that may be detrimental to longer-term livelihoods, for example selling productive assets, or giving children to the care of relatives.

Cash-based support for livelihood rehabilitation can potentially also benefits local trade and economy recovery in the short and long term. By stimulating local markets, local traders and service providers, transport workers and suppliers, as well as transporters of goods may all benefit from households having money to spend. When goods are available and accessible locally, cash or voucher-based interventions have the potential to be more rapid than bringing supply from out of country and eliminate logistical and import costs.


All types of cash transfers have the following overarching aim: to deliver timely and cost-effective assistance to crisis-affected populations, while at the same time supporting the local economy.

The potential of cash transfer for humanitarian intervention

ACTED has been implementing cash transfer programming and modalities for years throughout its countries and in different contexts, capitalizing on its best practices and developing innovation to ensure the best outreach and impact for cash transfers.

 ACTED is an active advocate to promote such an approach, as a standard practice within its teams, as well as towards donors and other stakeholders. Donors and practitioners alike are increasingly recognizing that cash transfer programming – including unconditional, multi-purpose cash assistance, Cash-for-Work and vouchers – offers considerable potential to transform humanitarian action. As part of the Grand Bargain, donors and aid agencies committed to increase the use and coordination of cash-based programing.

 ACTED is notably a member of the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP), a global partnership of humanitarian actors engaged in policy, practice and research within cash programming.

We consider cash transfer programming as a 1st priority modality in emergency response, when the operational context is appropriate.  Giving aid directly in the form of cash is often a highly effective way to reduce suffering and empower those who receive it. The flexibility of cash transfer

Cash transfer programming may serve as the starting point for a series of interventions or as a step in economic recovery and development. Different types of Cash transfer programming can be implemented together (e.g., cash-for-work and unconditional cash transfers) or in tandem with other types of programming (e.g., direct cash transfers complementing food aid distribution).