Cash and Voucher Assistance & Child Protection: Spotlighting Resources and Sharing Country Office Experience, Global Protection Forum 2021

Humanitarian crises have become more complex in recent years challenging humanitarian actors to adapt to meet the evolving needs of affected populations. One in four children lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster and every year, 175 million children are expected to be affected by geo-climatic disasters. As humanitarian crises break down traditional protection mechanisms and the loss of income restricts access to basic resources, children become increasingly vulnerable to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence. The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of some of the biggest threats to child survival and well-being such as hunger, and reduced access to health, education, social and child protection services.

An increasing proportion of humanitarian assistance is being given in the form of cash and voucher assistance (CVA). In 2019, 17.9% of total humanitarian assistance was delivered in the form of CVA. Disbursal of CVA (i) is efficient and cost effective; (ii) stimulates local economies; and (iii) is a respectful dignified way of providing aid. As the prevalence of cash transfer programming in humanitarian response has grown, so too has the recognition that the sector must learn how to use cash transfer programs to achieve better results for children .

Perceived risks associated with CVA are limiting exploration and piloting of CVA to achieve CP outcomes – for example, risks around including children and adolescents as direct recipients of CVA. Historically, certain CVA interventions have created risks for children. Negative outcomes of using CVA have included for example: increased stigma and exposure to threats, theft and violence for children who were formerly associated with armed forces or groups; escalation in intergenerational violence as children demand the CVA allocated to a household for themselves ; and the potential commodification of children when transfers are used as incentives for foster care. However, CVA can be delivered in ways that ensure safety and security. And, in some situations, in-kind assistance may present a greater risk. Thus, the exclusion of children and adolescents from programmes that are prioritising cash and voucher assistance may be harmful, limiting actors’ ability to reach some of those who are most at risk.

Child protection (CP) is a sector that produces life-saving outcomes when delivered through standalone activities and integrated and mainstreamed with other sectors. While recent pilot studies and desk reviews underscore the use of cash as a protection tool to improve child protection and well-being, they also point to knowledge gaps and the need for more concrete data findings. In response to this members of the Global Protection Cluster Task Team on Cash for Protection, including Plan International, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and Save the Children have been working together to understand and address the barriers to successfully implementing joint CVA and CP programming.