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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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Nutrition and Cash and Voucher Assistance

Malnutrition  continues to pose a major challenge to human well-being around the world. In 2020, an estimated 144 million children under five suffer from stunting (i.e. chronic malnutrition) , 47 million children under five were wasted (i.e. acute malnutrition) , of which 14.3 million were severely wasted, and an additional 340 million suffered from micronutrient deficiencies (UNICEF/WHO/WB group, 2020). Poor diets drive malnutrition in early childhood: 44 per cent of children aged 6 to 23 months are not fed fruits or vegetables and 59 per cent are not fed eggs, dairy, fish or meat (UNICEF, 2019). The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating these deficiencies and as undernourished people have weaker immune systems, they may be at greater risk of severe illness due to the virus. The problem of malnutrition is particularly pronounced in humanitarian crises. These are characterized by limited access to adequate safe food and water, disruptions in health and nutrition services, disruptions of livelihoods, food production and income generation opportunities, and constraints to protecting, promoting and supporting optimal infant and young child feeding.

How is CVA used in the Nutrition sector?

There is a growing recognition that Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) can contribute to improving maternal and child nutrition by impacting on the underlying determinants of adequate nutrition. This can occur in three main ways.

  1. CVA allows targeted households and individuals to purchase goods and access services that can have a positive impact on maternal and child nutrition. These include nutritious foods, items to prepare food, hygiene items, safe water, health services and medication, transportation, and productive inputs.
  2. If provided conditionally, CVA can improve participation in nutrition Social Behaviour Change (SBC) activities and attendance to priority preventive health services.
  3. Further, the increase in household income associated with CVA can reduce economic pressures and household tensions, in turn increasing the time available for caregiving, enhancing women’s decision-making power, and improving psychological well-being of caregivers.

Main challenges for the scale-up of quality CVA in the Nutrition sector?

There are numerous challenges to scaling up quality CVA in the nutrition sector. The exposure of nutrition practitioners with cash and voucher modalities has been limited. Consequently, their capacity to consider and use CVA in nutrition response has been limited as well. Also, to date, there has been a lack of guidance on how to incorporate CVA in nutrition response. The Evidence and Guidance Note should help to address this challenge.

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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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