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Humanitarian Cash and Social Protection in Yemen: CaLP Case Study

Country: Yemen
Source: Cash Learning Partnership

Please refer to the attached file.


Cash transfers in Yemen, delivered through humanitarian actors and social protection systems, offer great opportunities for beneficiary impact and alignment with donor priorities – but this potential is not fully utilized, due to lack of a common vision and strategic direction.

In the Yemen context, cash programming takes place at large scale, in a context characterised by political, security and economic complexity. The scale of the program represents an achievement – but cash programming is fragmented. Humanitarian and social protection systems do not work together, beneficiary caseloads are likely to overlap and coordination mechanisms are weak.

This weakness has three major impacts: (1) the most vulnerable may not receive appropriate support and combined program impact is not maximised, (2) the humanitarian system’s resources are used inefficiently, and (3) risks associated with cash transfers are exacerbated.

For the humanitarian and social protection systems, the larger impacts of these weaknesses are: (1) that the system, as currently stands, may face challenges to efficiently absorb large-scale funding responding to COVID-19, (2) the response still has a significant way to go to align with global best practice on cash, and global guidelines incuding the Common Donor Approach to Humanitarian Cash Programming and the UN Common Cash Statement commitments, and (3) the system is not optimally placed to build nexus programming.

Significant efforts have been made to ensure that cash programming has the maximum impact on saving lives and preventing humanitarian suffering in this challenging context. The Cash and Markets Working Group (CMWG) has been strengthened with additional resources, and a new SMEB value has been introduced. OCHA is taking measures to support exchange of information about beneficiary lists. A consultant has been selected to support work on data interoperability between WFP, UNHCR and UNICEF. UNCCS agencies have developed a Yemen Action Plan with specific actions around collaborative procurements. All of these initiatives represent steps to improve efficiency– but much still remains to be done.

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This is a critical moment for the HCT to shape future programming. Both social protection and humanitarian funding cycles are being renewed, and in this process, donors and implementing partners are reviewing program effectiveness. There is a strong cash infrastructure, as well as a variety of projects that can act as building blocks for a more effective system. In order to strengthen humanitarian response in Yemen it is necessary both to take immediate steps to support more effective working between humanitarian and social protection cash programs, and to adopt five programming principles.

In the next 6 months, the HCT should, together with the donor community:

  • Develop a common program vision for all cash assistance, covering objectives, targeting and success criteria. Cash actors, in both the humanitarian and social protection sphere, need to be operating within a shared program vision and framework. To develop this vision, donors and the HCT should first develop consensus between themselves, then organise an in-depth workshop with all relevant actors, resulting in a concise shared vision statement and a roadmap for achieving this.

  • Conduct a big-picture mapping. When a common vision is developed, critical missing elements – that is, aspects of the big picture that are not commonly understood by the major actors (which may include the possible level and degree of overlap between beneficiary lists and district level mapping of interventions) – should be identified. Donors should provide resources and agencies should cooperate to fill in these gaps, at an overarching big picture level, in the short term.

  • Conduct referrals, accompanied by a learning program. Referrals between humanitarian and social protection programs enable smooth and seamless support to beneficiaries with multiple needs, and help to ensure that beneficiaries receive the most appropriate services. However referral systems are currently weak.
    To better understand practical barriers that prevent referrals between cash programmes (and between cash programmes and other types of assistance) small scale referral pilots should be conducted focusing on small numbers of beneficiaries in few governorates. These pilots should be accompanied by a structured learning platform. The learnings from such pilots can inform larger scale systems.

  • Ensure consistent, well staffed coordination mechanisms. Resources should be invested into strengthening
    existing coordination mechanisms and developing new ones where necessary. A mechanism should be
    designed which includes systemic links between the existing cash coordination group (CMWG) and social
    protection systems (currently no single forum), and in which the two systems systematically exchange
    information and learnings.

  • Strengthen donor coordination. Donors have made significant efforts to improve coordination on this
    issue, but these could be more inclusive.. Coordination is currently driven largely by ECHO and FCDO, who
    fund large cash programs and have clear priorities for cash assistance in Yemen, but these efforts shouldmore
    explicitly include the World Bank (WB) and smaller donors. A coordinated donor push is needed to develop
    infrastructure for harmonisation and ensure that actors have appropriate incentives to cooperate.

  • In the longer term, the HCT and the donor community should adopt the following principles:

  • Harmonisation, not Homogenisation. In a context with high need, it is possible for actors to operate
    differently while working toward a common goal. The key aspect of harmonisation is not to ensure that each
    cash program is the same, but to ensure that activities are complementary and efficiencies are gained through
    the use of harmonised tools and approaches. As such, it is possible for programs to target different beneficiary
    groups and use different transfer values in a harmonised system. it is important that the reasons for differences
    between agencies are clear and well communicated between different actors.

  • In a context with high levels of need, prioritisation is key. 80% of the population is currently in humanitarian
    need, under the poverty line, or both. It is unlikely that the humanitarian and social protection systems will be
    able to meet all need, and as a result, it is necessary to prioritise target populations. Given the limited resources
    available, a choice must be made between breadth of coverage – reaching a large number of people – and
    coverage with impact – providing enough to households that have been reached to ensure that they can build

  • Optimise Resources. To the degree possible, coordination mechanisms should be designed to be lean and to
    employ the minimum human and financial resources possible. Simultaneously, these mechanisms should, in
    the design phase, build in links to other systems: that is, the CMWG should have systematic linkages to social
    protection systems, as well as to cash plus programs. If possible, the CMWG and social protection systems
    should use one coordination mechanism.

  • Work from Big Picture to Details. Harmonisation is most likely to be achieved if decisions and changes to the
    system are structured and planned; such planning is likely to require a ‘funnel’ approach in which actors move
    from the big picture to the details. In some cases, big picture alignment will lead to quick and easy wins; these
    issues should be prioritised in the workplan.

  • Build Structural Links to Non-Cash Programming. It may be appropriate to design a program vision for cash
    with structural links to non-cash programs. Such a design – identifying points at which cash beneficiaries can
    be transferred to other sectors, programs to which they could be transferred, and priority sectors for transfer –
    is likely to maximise the impact of cash-plus programming and support a streamlined and harmonised fashion.

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