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.