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MPCA in Iraq: Perspectives of beneficiaries on impact

2018 — By Oliver Westerman, Cash and Livelihoods Consortium for Iraq

Cash Transfer Programmes (CTP) have become a common feature of humanitarian responses in conflict and disaster settings, supported by a wealth of evidence that cash transfers are an effective means of meeting humanitarian needs, providing local markets are functioning and accessible. CTP without conditions for receipt or restrictions on spending came to be called multi-purpose cash assistance (MPCA) because it enabled recipient households to define and meet a variety of their most urgent needs. In Iraq, usage of MPCA has grown since 2014 and has become an integral component of the conflict and recovery response.

The Cash Consortium for Iraq (CCI) was established in March 2015 with the aims of promoting a more effective MPCA response through harmonisation, operational coordination, and by expanding geographic reach. Using an evidence-based vulnerability targeting model, the CCI has to date provided one-off and multi-month cash transfers to over 75,000 households, or approximately 450,000 people.

Despite some evidence of the efficacy of MPCA in Iraq, there is a lack of more in-depth beneficiary insight into how MPCA enables them to meet their needs, and into why certain goods and services are prioritised over others, and across multiple conflict-affected governorates. In partnership with the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Food for Peace (FFP), the CCI sought to capture beneficiary perspectives on these questions. From March to April 2018, the CCI held 33 focus group discussions (FGDs) (including 2 pilot discussions) with MPCA beneficiaries in the 3 largest conflict-affected governorates in Iraq – Anbar, Ninawa, and Salah al-Din.

The discussions covered the topics of why MPCA tends to be preferred to in-kind assistance, why certain goods and services are prioritised after receiving MPCA, whether MPCA allowed beneficiaries to plan for the future, and – recognising that MPCA can have unintended, second-order effects – whether beneficiaries had noticed effects on community dynamics and local markets following distributions of MPCA.