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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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Episode 5: A Short History of Cash and Voucher Assistance.

In this 5th episode of CashCast we take a look back over the evolution of cash and voucher assistance (CVA) and then leap forward to explore where it’s going next. 

15 April 2021

A short history of cash and voucher assistance. CashCast episode 5.

15 years ago, the use of CVA was still seen as a fringe activity limited to a small number of scattered projects. Even 6 years ago, it made up less than 8% of international humanitarian assistance.  

In the last few years, growth has been rapid. It is now an essential part of almost every response and accounted for a very significant one fifth of international humanitarian assistance in 2019. 

With the CALP Network’s 15th anniversary only recently behind us, Karen Peachey, the CALP Network’s Director is joined by a panel of guests to discuss what’s changed in CVA and to share their hopes and fears for the future. Each guest has played a key role in the journey of CVA and collectively and have a wealth of insights to share. 

Discussions touched on many themes including: 

  • How cash rose from the fringes to arrive in its more established position today
  • The role that evidence has played for CVA especially in comparisons to in-kind 
  • The role of key governmental, political and humanitarian allies in advancing the growth of cash  
  • The tendency to wrap CVA up in a language of innovation when fundamentally it is about enabling people impacted by crisis to be the agents of their own recovery 
  • The need to work better with both private sector and humanitarian partners 
  • An aspiration for the future to truly devolve power to people affected by crisis 


Dr Jemilah Mahmood has been a key player in some of the big political developments around cash. She is currently serving as the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia on Public Health. Before that, she was Under-Secretary General at IFRC and led the Secretariat of the World Humanitarian Summit, where humanitarian actors were urged to ask “why not cash, and if not now – when”. 

Sarah Bailey has been instrumental in building the evidence base for cash. She is currently WFP’s Head of Programme in Barbados, and previously worked for ODI, generating much of the most influential evidence around the effectiveness, efficiency and transformational potential of CVA. 

Nigel Timmins has been a key player in building and supporting the partnerships and networks that have helped cash to grow. He is the Humanitarian Director of Oxfam International, and served at the Chair of the CALP Network’s Board, for four years before stepping down in 2019.  

Zehra Rizvi has been a passionate and motivated cash advocate from the start of this journey. She is a CVA and social protection specialist and currently works for UNICEF in the MENA region. Before that, she has worked on cash with many organisations and as an independent consultant. She was also a member of the CALP Network’s first Steering Committee in 2008 representing the British Red Cross. 

Our guests join us to share their own thoughts and experiences and are not acting as spokespeople for any particular origination. 

Karen has also written a blog summarising the key lessons and observations covered during this conversation.


The CashCast is a monthly podcast from the Cash Learning Partnership that looks in depth at the critical debates in humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVA).


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