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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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Review of Targeting of Cash and Food Assistance for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt

2015 — By Kay Sharp

This report is an output of a consultancy to review the process of developing protocols for targeting cash and food assistance to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan during 2014. Under the auspices of the High Level Meeting between WFP and UNHCR (May 2014) and the WFP and UNHCR Joint Action Plan on cash and vouchers (2014), WFP and UNHCR made a commitment to explore methods and mechanisms for ensuring complementary targeting of multi-sector cash and food assistance. Both agencies have dedicated considerable time and expertise to joint activities on targeting in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt (among other countries). The main objective of the consultancy is to document the process, capture the viewpoints and reflections of the people involved, and to examine emerging issues and lessons which should be considered in future guidance and operations.

This work is also part of a larger project under the planned lessons learned on the “Building Blocks of CBIs in MENA region” planned for 2015, and is intended to feed into the development of targeting guidance for UNHCR country offices.

A major goal of the work done on targeting in the MENA region during 2013 and 2014 was to improve understanding of economic vulnerability for the targeting of cash assistance. This is a relatively new approach in refugee contexts. The development of economic targeting criteria in the Syria Crisis has received significant assistance from the World Bank, in leading UNHCR through methods of econometric analysis (i.e. identifying reliable predictors of consumption poverty through statistical analysis), applying a proxy means test (PMT) approach well-tested in poverty-reduction programmes. On the other hand, the analysis and targeting of food insecurity has benefited from decades of experience and methodology development by the Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) Unit of WFP.

Conceptually, to the extent that household food security is a function of economic access to food, and food assistance contributes to overall household budgets (particularly when provided in near-cashequivalent form such as vouchers and e-cards), the World Bank and WFP approaches are analysing the same thing but from different angles. There is a very substantial overlap in the factors analysed and therefore the data collection requirements of the two approaches, and there is broad consensus on the benefits of joint data collection. However, the analytical methods are very different. Operationally, too, there have been challenges in developing complementary targeting of cash and food assistance given the different mandates, procedures and resource streams of the two agencies.

Within UNHCR, targeting by poverty or economic vulnerability is also a major departure from the established principles and procedures based on protection criteria. There has been much discussion about how to integrate the two, and concerns that the new approach should not displace protection principles.

The report provides a summary of issues and challenges described by stakeholders in these processes, together with observations by the consultant (drawing on international targeting literature and experience), and some indication of lessons emerging from the MENA process so far. It is not an evaluation. At the time of the stakeholder interviews (December 2014) the development of targeting protocols was still in progress in all three countries, with both Egypt and Lebanon engaged in new data collection exercises. It was therefore too early to assess the results or efficiency of the approach. Such an evaluation would in any case require much longer and more detailed research in each country. Equally, the consultancy did not aim to review the technical details of questionnaires and analytical methods, which had already been scrutinised by many experts. Rather, the aim was to look at the bigger picture, consider the work done in the context of an operational view of targeting, and try to capture some of the institutional memory of the process.


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