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Cash Coordination in the Philippines: a review of lessons learned during the response to super Typhoon Haiyan

Cash transfers played a significant role in the humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan. The increased use of cash, which if unrestricted is fungible, requires greater inter-agency and cross-sectoral coordination. In this article CaLP provides greater detail about its recently completed review “Cash Coordination in the Philippines”.

In the last five years there has been a growing trend towards the use of cash transfer programming (CTP) as a response modality in emergencies across the humanitarian sector. The fungibility of cash, when provided without restrictions, offers increased choice for affected populations to meet cross-sectoral needs according to their priorities. There is consequently a growing interest in the mainstreaming of CTP in response, recovery and rehabilitation and in the potential of so called Multi-Purpose Cash Grants (MPCG) within some international NGOs (INGOs) and donors (notably DFID and ECHO). The effective and appropriate use of CTP requires strong intra and inter-agency coordination and communication between various actors across sectoral divisions, which poses particular challenges as well as opportunities for aid coordination efforts.

On 8th November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful storm to make landfall ever recorded, caused flooding, landslides, and widespread damage across nine provinces of the Philippines. The Government of the Philippines estimates that 16 million people were affected, 4.1 million people were displaced and 6,300 people lost their lives. The cash transfer components of the humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan comprised some 40% of the entire relief response and totalled approximately USD $845 million. At least 45 international humanitarian agencies implemented cash transfers. Other actors both linked to and outside of the humanitarian coordination system including government agencies, private companies, civil society organizations and individuals, including the Filipino diaspora, also distributed cash to affected communities.

In recent years, humanitarian actors have formed an ad hoc Cash Working Group (CWG) to help coordinate their activities in response to several natural disasters. In the first week after Typhoon Haiyan hit, the Cash Learning Partnership’s (CaLP’s) Asia Regional Focal Point re-activated the CWG. Additionally, for the first time UN OCHA deployed a position dedicated to cash coordination.

CaLP and UNHCR commissioned this review in order to document lessons learnt on the effectiveness of cash coordination during the initial three to four months of the response to Typhoon Haiyan, and to provide recommendations on inter-agency and cross-sectoral coordination.

The objectives of this study are to:

  1. Identify cash coordination mechanisms and tools in the Typhoon Haiyan response that effectively facilitated and streamlined decision-making and implementation across agencies.
  2. Define what coordination elements contributed to or didn’t contribute to the use of multi-purpose cash grants.
  3. Build evidence on optimal coordination models that can create an enabling environment for CTP – and especially multi-purpose cash grants – where appropriate in future humanitarian interventions.

This report details the experiences of three inter-agency coordination mechanisms for CTP within the humanitarian coordination system during the response to Typhoon Haiyan. This includes the dedicated OCHA Cash Coordinator, the Cash Working Group and cash coordination within and between the clusters. It discusses what worked well with these mechanisms, the constraints limiting their potential added value and generates a number of lessons for future cash coordination in the Philippines.

This research was commissioned by the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the generous support of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).

The full report can be downloaded here. 

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