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Published on 21 May 2021

Pallab Regmi was Christian Aid’s Programme Coordinator in Nepal. Between 2015 and 2018 he was an Emergency Programme Officer helping recovery efforts after the 2015 earthquake. Here he shares some personal reflections on the use of different cash modalities to respond to emergencies, with specific emphasis on the 2015 earthquake.

From my experience, the cash modality needs to be taken forward based on the local context. During the early phase of the earthquake response some markets were not functioning so most organisations (including Christian Aid) opted to go with non-food items (NFI) and food distributions.

Later, as the full recovery got underway, there was a transition to multiple cash approaches, including multipurpose grants, cash for shelter, cash for work and voucher programmes.

Overall, though, I feel depending upon the nature of disaster and market functionality*, unconditional cash transfer is the most appropriate model as people can acquire exactly what they want.

*Christian Aid has guidance notes on how to interpret the level of dysfunctionality to inform modality selection.

Types of cash and voucher response

In earthquake response and recovery, Christian Aid uses different models depending on the local context and need:

  • As per the provision of the government, 100 vulnerable households were selected for cash for shelter intervention. Here, a conditional grant was given to allow people to buy materials to rebuild their homes.
  • 3,000 affected families were supported with a multipurpose cash grant of NPR 15,000 (GBP 93 approx.)
  • Wider recovery was supported via Cash for Work, where communities engaged in reconstruction of the community halls, roads and foot trails, which boosted earnings within the local community, helped stimulate demand and recovery of local markets.
  • In some locations, commodity vouchers were adopted after considerations with the local government.
  • As part of the livelihoods recovery work, cash grants were used to allow people to start small business with technical guidance and business plan which was very effective.

Challenges of, and reasons for choosing different models

The government of Nepal preferred a cash-for-work model to avoid misuse, fraud and security concerns. Even then Christian Aid used a diverse range of modalities to meet differing needs.

Multipurpose grants and vouchers were used to target the most vulnerable, as was conditional cash for shelter, but livelihoods grants and cash for work were used to help broader economic recovery.

Christian Aid was able to effectively manage cash transfer ensuring security with use of the banks and vouchers. By using the full flexibility cash programming has to offer, we were able to meet our goals and we also learnt a lot as we went.

Later stages of recovery were followed by successive cash transfer programming where organisations practiced E-transfer and mobile banking, meaning that as a response community we have better tools and channels to respond to potential emergencies in the future.

What we learned about people's needs

For example, it was surprising that some people who got cash utilised it to pay debt rather than fulfilling their immediate needs.

However, on reflection this may have been the most important issue for them at the time.

In one instance we learned that livelihoods responses were not possible yet, as the community were prioritising shelter over livelihoods, so the project was adapted part way through.

What I learned from thie programme

My experience with Christian Aid Nepal has taught me that choosing cash transfer modalities is most crucial, depending on the context and community acceptance.

I’ve realised that community participation during selection of the beneficiaries, real need identifications and local ownership are key for success of any modality of cash transfer.

Our experience of permanent shelter cash programme with formation of local ‘Shelter Construction Committee’ was one of the best practices which ensured locally owned process, participation and also contributed towards sustainability of the programme.

Our programmes in Nepal have ended. See our full list of live programmes