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Challenging the System: Humanitarian Cash Transfers in Iraq

2017 — By Kristin Smart

Cash transfers have been used in Iraq to meet the critical basic needs of a highly vulnerable population, providing them dignity and flexibility in a context of uncertainty and economic need.

Although Iraq is an appropriate context for the use of cash transfers, factors including government acceptance, access, targeting and the availability of electronic transfer systems pose challenges to cash programming on a wider scale. Even with these technical limitations, assistance agencies have been able to deliver large-scale cash response programmes across Iraq.

Regardless of political agendas and disagreements, respondents in this study expressed a general awareness that cash is the future of humanitarian aid. There are clear opportunities for better cash programming in Iraq and a real need for humanitarian aid agencies to put aside institutional politics and collaborate more effectively. The call for global guidance avoids addressing the immediate need for practical support. Much more could be done to provide efficient, effective and better-coordinated cash now, without waiting for global guidance which could be some time in coming.

Challenging the system: humanitarian cash transfers in Iraq is one of a series of case studies building on the work of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers. The Panel concluded that cash transfers are not used enough in humanitarian responses and not used in ways that take advantage of their transformative potential.