Cash and Voucher Assistance

Yemen Red Crescent


Cash and Vouchers Assistance (CVA)

Evidence shows that, when conditions are appropriate, CVA can provide a more timely, efficient, effective, flexible and appropriate form of assistance.

Most migrants interviewed for the report  Dignifying, Diverse and Desired: Cash and Vouchers as Humanitarian Assistance for Migrants confirmed CVA was their preferred modality of assistance over goods in kind or services, as CVA allows them to exercise autonomy and choose how to use the support received. CVA is also a modality that promotes dignity, because it can be provided discreetly and confidentially without displaying people’s need for support to others or host communities.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement aims to support people in need in the most effective and efficient way possible, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is seeking to distribute 50 per cent of its humanitarian assistance through CVA by 2025[1].

CVA is globally recognised as a key assistance modality on account of its flexibility. This flexibility gives individuals and households the choice to acquire goods and services according to their unique needs and priorities, thereby playing a vital role in preserving their dignity.

IMPORTANT: the use of CVA must be evaluated in every situation, as CVA might not be feasible in all contexts and the decision must be based on people’s needs, people’s preferences of assistance, context feasibility, NS capacities and gaps analysis considering what others are doing. See the checklist below for more information.

Similar to social assistance, CVA can be used to meet a wide range of needs and can be aligned with a number of humanitarian sectors. Often, CVA is used to support people to meet essential needs. But CVA can also be used to support health objectives, to support access to education, or livelihoods activities.


Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) Definition

CVA refers to all programs where cash transfers or vouchers for goods or services are directly provided to recipients. In the context of humanitarian assistance, the term is used to refer to the provision of cash transfers or vouchers given to individuals, household, or community recipients, not to governments or other state actors (Source)

CVA in Migration Contexts

The Cash Hub Cash in Emergencies (CiE) Toolkit includes examples of the different use of CVA to support sectors here.

The report “DIGNIFYING, DIVERSE AND DESIRED: CASH AND VOUCHERS AS HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE FOR MIGRANTS JANUARY 2022” provides a list of examples of how CVA is used by the IFRC and National Societies in the migration context, including during the different stages of journeys.

CVA can be a tool to support the provision of services typically delivered through Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs). For instance, CVA:

Could support health or psychosocial support outcomes by enabling a migrant access to a health specialist service which they could not otherwise reach.

Can be more effective in meeting culturally appropriate food needs, or individual nutritional and dietary requirements.

Could help migrants access phones and connectivity to keep in touch with their families.

Could support migrants’ access to hygiene products.

Could support rent payments or a safe shelter.

May increase migrants’ resilience to protection risks such as trafficking, by reducing the likelihood they would be exploited, e.g., labour, or sexual exploitation.

Could support access to other services, like transport, personal care, counselling, etc.

Depending on programme objectives, CVA can be restricted or unrestricted, conditional, or unconditional. Restrictions refer to the use people can make of the assistance (this can be limited to certain products or markets/shops), while conditionality refers to prerequisite activities or obligations that a recipient must fulfil in order to receive assistance, i.e., attending school, attending nutrition screenings, undertaking work, training etc [1]. The evidence shows that most interviewees prefer unconditional CVA as opposed to conditional CVA [2].

[1] CALP Glossary

[2] Dignifying, Diverse and Desired: Cash and Vouchers as Humanitarian Assistance for Migrants

Learn More

Learn more on different modalities of support comparing pros and cons of in kind and CVA here Advantages and Disadvantages of response modalities | Source: CiE Toolkit- Cash Hub.

Hawa Magaji sits with Nigerian Red Cross divisional secretary of Song. During the armed conflict in north east Nigeria in 2014, Hawa`s community was attacked. She escaped with her family to safety. But just over a month later, she knew she needed to come back. 
On her returned, her goats and grains, including maize and groundnuts, were gone. With the help of the Nigerian Red Cross, Hawa has received enough money to invest back into her livelihood. She has bought seven goats, fertilizer for her farm and food to sustain her until her crops grow. She has also been able to renovate the foundations of her home where of her children reside.
The Red Cross is providing money for families, like Hawa’s, to enhance their ability to earn an income and feed their family. Cash has been distributed to people in Hong, Gombi and Song, allowing them to respond to their own unique needs and take charge of their recovery.
“Smiling alone cannot express how happy I am, because I have never received any help like this in my life,” says Hawa.
By the end of 2018, IFRC will support the Nigerian Red Cross in providing assistance to 360,000 people in three areas of Adamawa State (Gombi, Hong and Song) with food, shelter, sanitation and hygiene, community health services, cash and livelihoods projects.

How is CVA operationalised at HSP?

The following actions are recommended to be implemented along the set-up process of the HSP to enable the use of CVA as assistance modality.

Example: Hungary, in response to Ukraine crisis (2022): humanitarian CVA as a top up to existing social assistance

In Hungary, the use of cash assistance was not allowed to support people crossing borders from Ukraine as a consequence of conflict escalation in March 2022. The IRFC Secretary General and the Hungarian Red Cross leadership met the Ministry of Human Capacities, which built on ongoing Federation advocacy and resulted in the Ministry’s buy-in for a pilot CVA project. In June 2022, the government allowed the Red Cross to pilot a programme providing cash assistance for 250 participants. The pilot was designed as a top up to existing social assistance provided by the government as part of country social protection system and in line with the already established government policy.

Advocacy was a key enabler for using CVA in response to Ukraine crisis in neighbour impacted. Good early advocacy was a strong enabler to facilitate key decisions, as CVA was a relatively new modality of assistance for most of the National Societies. IFRC, NS leadership and operational staff advocacy efforts were instrumental to setting up and getting the programmes approved, each playing to their role’s strengths.

Learn More: CVA in the Ukraine and impacted countries crisis response

Example: Türkiye, Additional support to lessen the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts

In Türkiye, IFRC and the National Society support refugees through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme that provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Türkiye.

In response to the initial rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, TRC and IFRC successfully conducted a rapid assessment, and then advocated with the Ministry of Family and Social Services (MoFSS) and other stakeholders to agree and implement a vertical expansion to the ESSN by providing additional cash assistance to the 1.7 million refugees within the programme’s caseload at that time. These top-ups, benefitting from a reallocation of existing resources, were provided in two monthly tranches in June and July 2020, supplementing the normal ESSN payment cycle.

Learn More: Linkages between humanitarian cash assistance and social protection: Lessons learnt from the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) in Türkiye

Example: Self registration app for remote Red Cross financial assistance used in Ukraine and impacted countries crisis response 

Although people leaving Ukraine due to conflict escalation in March 2022 could register for protection in neighbour European countries as they were forced to leave Ukraine. To register for the financial assistance programme, the registration process did not require a document from the country of destination but asked people to use their national identity documents (also as a proof of nationality/previous residence in Ukraine). In order to allow for flexibility and facilitate the process, people could apply for assistance using one of the following documents: Ukraine International Passport, Ukraine National ID Card, Ukraine Internal Passport, Foreign Passport with Residence Visa, Ukraine Birth Certificates (For children & youth)

Learn More: Red Cross For Financial Assistance

Learn from experience: The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme in Türkiye 

The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Türkiye. The ESSN is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and the largest programme ever implemented by the IFRC.

Learn More: #PowerToBe Campaign | IFRC: Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Programme Overview | Türk Kızılay: ESSN Overview


Key Resources

Afghanistan, August 2020 -- A member of the Afghan Red Crescent team does the  elbow bump with a women at a relief center. 
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghan Red Crescent is providing cash support to the country’s most vulnerable communities. In addition to the health challenges, the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 is devastating in country where 54.5 percent of the population – or some 20 million people – are living below the poverty line.

Resources to support decision making on CVA

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