Cash and Voucher Assistance

​​​​What is Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA)?


Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) refers to all pro­grammes where cash transfers or vouchers for goods or services are directly provided to recipients in order for them to meet their varied needs on the local market (food, water, non-food items, rent, access to education and health, or else). Cash and vouchers are transfer mo­dalities which can be provided separately or in combina­tion with other modalities (such as in-kind, service deliv­ery, technical support) and can be used to cover all needs or a set of these, in an emergency, a recovery phase or protracted crisis.

CVA came to the spotlight in 2004 with many pilots in response to the Tsunami in South and South East Asia. Since then, the use of CVA has increased significantly. In 2016, the Secretary General stressed at the World Hu­manitarian Summit that where feasible “cash should be the preferred and default modality". By 2020, around 19% of global humanitarian assistance was provided through CVA.

Opportunities and risks

CVA make the recipients prime responsible for their re­covery, with the flexibility to make the best choices ac­cording to their needs, without having to resort to nega­tive coping mechanisms like selling assets or worse. It stimulates the local economy with a multiplier effect on the market and can promote financial inclusion, while al­lowing for economies of scale for donors.

In a world where needs keep increasing while resourc­es are shrinking, and where humanitarians seek to ad­equately assist affected populations, based on greater accountability, CVA can help bring more effectiveness and efficiency in humanitarian responses. Linking hu­manitarian cash assistance and social protection systems can help address underlying poverty, build resilience, speed response and support localisation of humanitar­ian action.

When it comes to risks related to using CVA, they are often based on perceptions rather than evidence and are similar to risks for other types of assistance. Years of evidence building have shown that CVA can be successful in highly difficult contexts if well programmed and with risks well mitigated.

ODI's 2016 video​ summarizes the most important advantages of CVA.