On March 12, the fourth part of the webinar series linking humanitarian cash and social protection programming took place under the theme of “The role of (I)NGOs in linking humanitarian cash and social protection in conflict settings”. As reflected in the title, the webinar unpacked the crucial role civil society organizations play in designing and delivering Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) across many countries, particularly in fragile contexts. These interventions have a strong potential to build and strengthen the national social protection systems and policies, and through two case studies – Yemen (Oxfam) and Nigeria (ACF) – the webinar aimed to illustrate how this can be achieved in practice, and lessons learned from these experiences. The webinar was organized by the co-leads of the Grand Bargain Cash workstream sub-group on linking SP with humanitarian cash The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). This webinar was co-hosted with the Collaborative Cash Delivery Network (CCD).
Zehra Rizvi (Independent consultant), moderated the webinar with guests Abdulrahman Sani and Aneel Memon from Action Against Hunger (Action Contre La Faim), and Amr Mohammed Al-Nood from Oxfam. Larissa Pelham, Social Protection Adviser at Oxfam participated as a discussant, representing the Collaborative Cash Delivery Network (CCD).
The discussions were framed around five key issues: country context, decision-making and design, acceptance and outcomes, challenges and opportunities and key takeaway points.
Case study 1: Yemen. The experience of Oxfam
Amr started his presentation by providing an overview of the protracted and devastating crisis in Yemen, which left the already poor country in a deeply fragile state. As of 2019, nearly 10 million people (or half of the population) in the country are facing hunger, and 8 out of 10 people are in need of humanitarian support. The conflict has displaced millions, destroyed infrastructures, and left many people poor and unemployed.
As the 2011 Arab Spring events left Yemen in political crisis and instability, Oxfam set out to deliver cash transfers to vulnerable families in Al Hodeidah province, building on their 30-year experience providing humanitarian assistance. Before the crisis, the Government of Yemen ran two flagship social protection programmes:
- Cash for work programme, implemented by the Social Fund for Development
- Cash transfer programme, for the poorest and most vulnerable population implemented by the Social Welfare Fund (SWF).
The Oxfam CVA was designed to use the existing delivery system of the SWF administered cash transfer programme – post offices. There were several reasons that led to this decision: they needed to reach over half a million people, which was unprecedented in their programming, and the post offices had the experience and capacity to handle such large-scale disbursement. Despite challenges related to managing community expectations, exclusion errors, and logistics, overall, the approach was a huge success and ensured trust in the ability of the existing system to function. Key factors and strategies that led to the positive results were:
- Routine, quality data collection and evidence generation
- Strong advocacy strategy and messaging
- Relationship building and stakeholder (community, donors and partners) engagement altogether, which brought increased visibility to the persistent vulnerability throughout the country, followed by donor support, actions, and scaling up of CVAs.
Outcomes of the programme:
The deteriorating political, security, economic and financial situation in Yemen left the programme under funded as of this year, yet the Oxfam experience shows the incredible potential of: 1) use of national systems to deliver CVA at scale, rapidly; and 2) role CSOs can play in strengthening national systems. Further ways in which NGOs can contribute were also presented.
Case study 2: Nigeria. The experience of Action against Hunger
Despite the incredible wealth brought on by the natural resource, poverty remains widespread in Nigeria: around 91 of its 200 million people live in poverty. In the Northeast region, protracted conflict exacerbates poverty and vulnerability, leaving 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance – more than half of which are children. To address the needs of the most vulnerable population in the northern state of Yobe, Action Against Hunger (ACF) has launched a cash plus pilot in 2019. The maternal and child nutrition-focused programme builds on ACF’s rich experience providing humanitarian and development assistance in the country since 2010. In a context where no state-level social protection policy exists, ACF aims to set the foundation for longer-term programming, building on the cash plus pilot experience and strong relationships forged with various key stakeholders, from local governments to community members. The programme design details were as follows:
- Target population: Over 5000 mothers covered in the pilot
- Benefit amount and duration: monthly $10 for a period of 33 months
- Distribution: select local vendors close to the participating villages
- Plus: health and nutrition trainings and referral to services.
In addition, the programme also seeks to build capacity of local government officials on social protection and provide technical support to the state social protection policy design. The pilot faces a number of challenges, from lack of understanding of social protection at the state level to security, access, and sustainability risks – yet also, as the first of its kind, has the tremendous potential to form the basis of a nationally owned social protection programme and strengthen the system.
Building trust was key and ACF presented on how this was achieved:
In addition to building trust and acceptance, the role of INGOs was stressed once more on being able to advocate and work on a very local level with government, own staff, other NGO staff, communities and civil society. Close collaboration and coordination were highlighted as key drivers of success.
The key takeaways from the ACF perspective included:
After the case study presentations, Larissa shared her reflections, starting from the emerging focus on the linkage between humanitarian-social protection interventions.
The discussant noted how two elements – the need for faster, effective, larger-scale response; and sustainability – gave rise to this nexus, and offered an updated framework currently being developed to better understand the role NGOs can play, which are:
- Expansion: supporting scalable government interventions
- Utilization: to deliver faster/at scale response during a crisis
- Advocacy: for national scalable systems & right to social protection
- Sustainability: building blocks for later social assistance
Larissa offered further insights by highlighting unique values that NGOs can bring, such as close proximity and relationship with communities, agility, experience running pilots, partnerships, and rich expertise in multisector programming. Complementing her remarks with what NGOs should do and potential challenges they could face, she concluded by bringing all these together in four main points: guidance can move things forward, linkages may not automatically happen, programmes need to be conflict-sensitive and to uphold the principle of “do no harm”.
Questions that the CCD is currently considering and posing wider were also presented to webinar participants and all were (and are!) encouraged to engage in the conversation on this topic.
The webinar concluded with a rich Q&A session, accessible here.
This blog post is part of the Linking Social Protection with humanitarian cash webinar series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organized by IFRC, UNICEF and DFID on the topic. To set the scene, don’t forget to watch the foundational webinar on this topic: Demystifying the entry points for humanitarians. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary or the whole series, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!