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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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Colombia and Lebanon Evaluation Report: Measuring the impact of cash on child protection outcomes

29 March 2024 — By Qundeel Khattak, Shannon Doocy, Emily Lyles / Save the Children International

As humanitarian crises break down traditional protection mechanisms and the loss of income restricts access to basic resources, children become increasingly vulnerable to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence. Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) is a critical modality that is increasingly being adopted to support the prevention and response to child protection (CP) risks. While the evidence base for assessing the benefits, impacts and risks of CVA in humanitarian contexts is mounting, it is growing faster in some sectors than others, such as protection. As such, the U.S. Bureau for Populations, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) funded Save the Children and the Johns Hopkins University to conduct a quasi-experimental study in Colombia and Lebanon to better understand the effectiveness of CVA on reducing or mitigating child protection risks such as child labor and violence in the home in humanitarian settings. In both contexts, households with at-risk children received six (6) months of CVA combined with case management and CP services to reduce child labor and violence in the home.

In Colombia, the study was implemented in two departments – Arauca and La Guajira – and established a comparison and intervention group in each department. In both departments, the intervention group received both CVA and CP assistance; in Arauca, the comparison group received only CVA while in La Guajira the comparison group received only CP assistance. Overall, the effect of CVA on perceived safety & wellbeing of children was predominantly positive, particularly on safety within the home. Improvements were also observed in the corrective measures used by caregivers to discipline their children, which was used as a proxy for violence in the home. Across both departments, an increase was observed in positive discipline measures such as explaining the child’s behavior or taking away privileges, and a decrease was observed in more severe measures such as verbal abuse and corporal punishment.

The impact on child school attendance was mixed, with a marginal increase in attendance among the CVA-only group but a decrease among the CVA+CP group. Child labor demonstrated a slight decrease in both groups, with a more substantial reduction noted among the CVA+CP intervention group, notably from 8% to 3% in Arauca and from 3% to none in La Guajira. Finally, participants exhibited a shift in perception and acceptance of child labor, as indicated by reduced endorsement of such practices at the project’s conclusion compared to baseline assessments across all groups.

In Lebanon, two groups – one intervention (CVA+CP) and one comparison (CP-only) – were established in Greater Beirut. Similar to Colombia, the effect of CVA on perceived safety & wellbeing of children was predominantly positive, particularly in regard to safety within the home. Improvements were also observed in the corrective measures used by caregivers to discipline their children, which was used as a proxy for violence in the home. Although child engagement in income-generating activities was low in both groups, an overall improvement was observed during the study period, with significant decrease in child labor among both groups (from 10% to 4% in CP-only and 16% to 10% in CVA+CP). However, caregivers did note that while they would prefer to prioritize their children’s education, their “family economic situation encourages child labor practices”. As such, a decrease was observed in the proportion of children in both groups attending school; however, the change was not statistically significantly.

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