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Cash and Voucher Assistance

The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) supports effective, coordinated, and appropriate use of cash and voucher assistance (CVA), which in humanitarian response can offer people in need choice and support individual empowerment while increasing efficiencies, supporting local actors, and stimulating local economies.

What Is Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA)?

The Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) defines Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) as a modality for providing humanitarian assistance that uses local markets and services to meet the needs of persons of concern through the provision of cash (in the form of prepaid debit cards, mobile transfers, paper money, or cash-for-work), cash equivalents (e.g., bank deposit, mobile money), or vouchers redeemable for certain goods.  These may be conditional (i.e., on participating in a work project) or unconditional, restricted (intended for a specific expenditure) or unrestricted.

When Do We Use CVA in Humanitarian Assistance?

Cash, vouchers, in-kind assistance, service provision, and other forms of aid are all critical tools for the humanitarian toolbox.  PRM employs an “equal playing field” approach to determine the tool or modality best suited to the humanitarian context.  Our implementing partners select modalities according to appropriateness, feasibility, program objectives, cost-efficiency, and beneficiary preference.  Together with our colleagues at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, we have developed a Modality Decision Tool1 to help partners decide on the best modality in consideration of these factors.

CVA is increasingly being used as a humanitarian assistance modality as it is often the most effective way to help people get back on their feet and on their way to recovery.  As part of the Grand Bargain, an agreement to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the humanitarian system, the United States and other donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN agencies, and humanitarian actors committed to enhancing coordination of CVA.  To this end, in 2022 the Grand Bargain Cash Coordination Caucus developed and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee2 endorsed a model for predictable cash coordination , resulting in the creation of a Global Cash Advisory Group and formalization of Cash Working Groups at country-level.  The model is intended to enhance coordination amongst partners at country level, including national and local actors, such that the effective and efficient targeting and delivery of CVA  supports vulnerable populations, enhances accountability to those being supported, and is adapted to contextual needs in a manner that is flexible.

As with all types of assistance, we place a high priority on humanitarian protection to ensure that our assistance does not put aid recipients at further risk.  Additionally, we strive to ensure that CVA not only empowers individuals by providing choice but also has a positive impact on local economies, promotes self-reliance, and supports relief and development coherence to maximize impact and market-driven programming.

CVA and Protection

We also know there is an inextricable relationship between assistance and protection – any agency doing one without considering the ramifications of the other may put aid recipients at enormous risk.  To the extent possible, we aim to grant our implementing partner agencies the flexibility to determine the most effective and empowering methods of delivering protection and humanitarian assistance, whether through CVA or other modalities, as long as protection is paramount.

[1] OCHA Inter-Agency Standing Committee. Global Cash Advisory Group.   [back to 1]

U.S. Department of State

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