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Seeking Solutions: New Roles for Technology in Cash and Voucher Programs

More people have been forced to flee their homes than at the height of World War II. The scale of these humanitarian crises are challenging, and sometimes outpacing, the capacity of institutions created to respond to them. Yet, the approaches available to reach populations in need have also advanced. In particular, the trend towards distributing cash and vouchers – instead of goods – has grown tremendously within the world of humanitarian assistance.

This growth has been enabled by innovations in payment technologies. This is a trend we embrace, since – in the right circumstances – cash and vouchers can reach people more efficiently than goods, which are cumbersome and expensive to transport, store,
and distribute. And equally important: cash and vouchers offer flexibility to people affected by conflict and disaster to purchase exactly what they need. Used appropriately, cash and vouchers can also stimulate the recovery of local markets, thereby extending the positive impact of that initial injection of humanitarian support within affected communities.

Although cash and vouchers are now widely used, they are still impeded by the challenges of operating in post-disaster and conflict settings.  Technology and the private sector – can play a formative role in helping overcome some of these challenges. And in doing so, it can improve and streamline humanitarian responses around the globe, reaching more people, more efficiently.

This brief from ELAN is intended to inspire new thinking about solutions, products and tools that could support the use of cash and vouchers in humanitarian programs.

The Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Action Network (ELAN) works to improve the impact of humanitarian cash transfers through the appropriate use of payments technology. We’re a network of service providers, humanitarian practitioners, and donors who research and share best practice around e-transfer products, services, and practices

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