Evaluation of the Nepal Emergency Cash Transfer Programme through Social Assistance

As a response to the devastating earthquakes in Nepal in April and May 2015, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) developed and implemented a large-scale Emergency Cash Transfer Programme (ECTP), in collaboration with the Government of Nepal (GoN). UNICEF provided financial and technical support to the GoN to expand the existing social assistance cash transfer programme in earthquake-affected areas in two phases. UNICEF’s financial support to the GoN for both phases of the cash programme amounted to $26 million. The two phases of the ECTP are the first steps towards UNICEF’s longer-term objectives of helping the GoN establish a model of rapid social transfers to vulnerable groups during future emergencies, and ultimately to strengthen the social protection system for children in Nepal. Oxford Policy Management (OPM) was contracted by UNICEF to undertake an independent evaluation of the ECTP. This evaluation consists of two parts: a process evaluation to understand how the ECTP was implemented and experienced, and a formative component, which consolidates the learning from using social protection systems in an emergency response context to inform the potential future use of such approaches in Nepal and globally. To ensure that the evaluation addresses evaluation objectives in a coherent and consistent way, our evaluation relies on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) criteria for evaluations. The evaluation approach consists of primary qualitative data collected from a variety of stakeholders, including GoN staff, UNICEF, and implementing partners at the central, district, and village/ward levels. In addition, the research team engaged with beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries of both phases at the village/ward levels. Primary research was complemented with secondary data analysis to develop a holistic understanding of the programme. The evaluation team used a reflexive approach to address and mitigate the limitations in the research, which are discussed in greater detail in the report. UNICEF’s ability to quickly provide financial support to a significant share of the vulnerable population in programme districts, immediately following devastating earthquakes in a country famous for its difficult terrain, is commendable. By partnering with the government and working to build upon and bolster the existing social protection system UNICEF not only successfully demonstrated strong commitment towards their long-term country objectives in Nepal, but also added further credibility to the programme. Numerous important but difficult choices had to be made during the design and implementation of the programme in a time of crisis. The potential costs and benefits of the alternative choices not made have to be considered in this evaluation, but it is clear that UNICEF staff were aware of these difficult choices and trade-offs, and made decisions to maximise benefits and limit costs within these constraints. The focus of this evaluation has been on providing forensic analysis to weigh both the choices and costs, so as to assess the programme in such a way that the findings will be useful to UNICEF, government partners, and other interested organisations seeking to improve their approach in similar emergency cases in Nepal and elsewhere. In presenting our evaluation of the programme we acknowledge the coverage and quality of the programme, and we commend UNICEF’s deep understanding, and excellent analysis, of the situation as regards addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable groups in Nepal.