5 minute inspiration: Cash and COVID – saving lives and livelihoods

by 24th Apr 2020
CARE’s COVID-19 response includes cash support to households in Grand Anse, Haiti CARE’s COVID-19 response includes cash support to households in Grand Anse, Haiti

Cash support in times of crisis can keep markets functioning, keep money flowing to small businesses that desperately need it, and save lives and livelihoods at the same time – because it means people can get what they need, when they need it. As a woman in Bangladesh told us: “People are unable to go out for working. People are having difficulty getting their daily necessities. We are being told to wash hands frequently. We are having trouble buying necessary items as it is, how will we afford handwashing soaps? … In this case, cash support might be more helpful.”

That’s what the President of a Village Development Committee with Bangladesh’s SHOUHARDO III project has to say about what she and her community most need right now. She says: “It can be done through [mobile money]. With cash support, people will be able to use or save as per their need.”

CARE is paying attention. CARE Bangladesh is already coordinating closely with national and local governments to make sure that families are getting the cash they need to buy necessities safely.

As of 20 April 2020, CARE is using cash as part of the COVID-19 response in 26 countries. Many of these cash distributions are already underway. Some include plans for projects that will launch in the next week or two.

What are we accomplishing?

Minimising contact during the transfers

In Ghana, the team is preparing the next round of cash transfers to 700 households affected by floods in Northern Ghana. Only 30% of the households can receive mobile money transfers, so the team is working with the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) to redeploy teams to the communities to reach the remaining 70% with specific attention on social distancing and other protective measures.

Using digital creatively

CARE Peru is signing an agreement with Red Digital – a key business in Peru that offers prepaid phone credit. Poor families will get about $32 worth of credit on their phones that they can use to buy groceries from a nutritionist-approved list.

Combining cash with education

Many of the cash programmes are using the opportunity of cash distribution to also share hygiene messages and other prevention information. In Jordan, the team is leveraging an existing cash transfer to support education to help connect students to online learning opportunities now that schools are closed.

Pay attention to mobility

CARE Haiti is adapting food security programmes to give out additional cash to support 400 poor households that need to comply with self-isolation or partial confinement, but that would not be able to eat during quarantine without buying additional groceries now. They are also distributing soap, sanitary pads, and other hygiene items in addition to the cash support.

Using cash to support mental health

In Ecuador, the team is combining cash transfers with distributing hygiene and food kits, and sharing information about specialised support available through hotlines, including social, legal, psychosocial to promote access to public and protection services and medical advice.

Thinking beyond consumer goods

In Turkey, the team is converting a support programme that helped refugees improve housing to cash-only subsidies in order to minimise contact and help families stay safe.

How are we doing it?

Adapting our existing programmes

Haiti, Ghana, Syria, Jordan, and Honduras are adapting their existing programmes to reach more people and get the most vulnerable people the infusion of cash they need right now. Ecuador is scaling up its existing multipurpose cash transfers for refugees and migrants.

Using our contingency plans

Jordan is distributing emergency cash assistance to 1500 Syrian and Jordanian families using back-up distribution plans we had set up for cases of emergency.

Scaling what we already know

Peru is working from a list of more than 4,300 participants in an existing project who already have debit cards and that just need an additional cash transfer.

Want to learn more?

Check out CARE’s guidelines for cash in COVID response.

Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Email: ejanoch@care.org