Increasing the Use of Humanitarian Cash and Voucher Assistance: Opportunities, Barriers and Dilemmas

By Corinna Kreidler, Niklas Reiger
December 2022

This report is available for download through the CALP Network.

What’s in the report

The use of cash and voucher assistance (CVA) has grown rapidly in recent years, nearly doubling as a proportion of international humanitarian assistance since 2016 and now accounting for approximately 19%. Yet it is clear that there is potential to increase the use of CVA significantly more.

The research found that:

  1. If CVA were delivered wherever feasible and appropriate, it could account for at least 30% and up to 50% of global humanitarian assistance. The global use of CVA would have reached 30% of the total reported humanitarian operations in 2021.
  2. The challenges to scaling CVA were examined with a focus on three countries – Yemen, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. The research found that major challenges to further scaling CVA were varied and numerous, from overall funding availability to the extent of harmonisation of CVA approaches to the availability of financial services.
  3. There is no single untapped reservoir to unlock the potential of CVA. The single biggest volume of aid with such restrictions is food aid from ‘Title II’ of the US Farm Bill and is often perceived as the only significant obstacle to increasing CVA. However, it was found that if the entire Title II budget was switched to CVA, total global volumes of CVA in 2017 would have been 21% rather than 15% of total international humanitarian assistance. This is significant but is still far short of the potential estimated by GPPi (37-42%) and the 30% figure calculated in this report.
  4. The increasing use of CVA is putting pressure on the humanitarian system to change and at the same time, the system requires changes to scale up CVA – there is clear pressure in both directions.
  5. The pace of growth in the use of CVA is slowing, yet we are far from levels that would be achieved if CVA is used wherever and whenever appropriate. This study unpacks the potential – and the barriers the humanitarian community needs to overcome – to fully realise CVA as an effective tool to respond more effectively to the preferences of people in contexts of crisis.