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Pintakasi: A Review of Shelter/WASH Delivery Methods in Post Disaster Recovery Interventions

On November 8, 2013, Super‑typhoon Haiyan (locally named “Yolanda”)—one of the largest Category 5 storms ever recorded— made landfall in the Philippines. Haiyan devastated many provinces, destroying homes, roads, airports, ports, markets, health facilities, telecommunications and water supplies. Damages were estimated at over $15 billion. Over 12 million people were affected, of whom 4 million were displaced and over 6,000 killed. Nationwide, the livelihoods of 5.6 million people were destroyed or disrupted. Despite the frequency of natural disasters in the Philippines, local government authorities and non‑governmental organizations were unprepared for the unprecedented scale of the destruction.

CRS targeted 20,000 families for household shelter, and 23,000 families for household sanitation reconstruction or repair. CRS supported market‑based solutions in shelter and sanitation by giving conditional cash transfers to those families able to rebuild on their own. For CRS, the Typhoon Haiyan Integrated Shelter/WASH Recovery Program was one of the largest post‑disaster responses to use the cash‑transfer modality for shelter and toilet construction. This report documents those important lessons learned. 

Given how large our response was, we wanted to assess the efficiency, effectiveness and appropriateness of the modalities (direct build or cash transfer) for delivering shelter and WASH assistance.  We conducted 26 focus group discussions with 115 beneficiaries and 90 staff, as well as 8 key informant interviews with senior management in the program areas of Tacloban, Palo and Samar, Philippines. The main objectives of the study were to:

  • Document decisions, implementation obstacles and risk‑mitigation strategies
  • Understand beneficiary preference
  • Provide a comparison between the cash‑transfer and direct‑build approaches

The study focused on the efficiency (time, cost, quantity/scale), effectiveness (quality, beneficiary satisfaction) and appropriateness (vulnerability, dignity) of a cash-based approach to delivering shelter/WASH solutions, compared to in-kind/direct-build construction, in the context of recovery after Typhoon Haiyan.


The relative effectiveness of different modalities depended heavily on contextual factors such as the functioning of markets, availability of trained labor, capacity of the organization, emergency phase versus recovery phase, and availability of secure in‑country money transfer systems. Key findings of the study include:

  1. It is very important for beneficiaries to have a choice between cash transfer and direct build. The provision of options allowed for the contextual needs of each beneficiary to be met. This also assured a higher rate of beneficiary satisfaction, since they had a greater choice of the delivery method.
  2. Beneficiary preference aligned with the type of modality they received (direct build or cash transfer). In the direct‑build FGDs, all beneficiaries said they preferred direct build and responded that they would not change their decision to a cash transfer since it was the best approach for their situation. All cash transfer beneficiaries who participated in the FGDs thought cash transfer was the best approach because they were able to choose quality materials to ensure a durable, high‑quality home.

  3. Cash transfer was a more cost‑efficient approach for this response. For every $100 spent on the beneficiary, it cost $18.50 for CRS to deliver the cash‑transfer approach against $23 to deliver using the direct‑build approach. This difference was primarily due to the time it took to procure materials for thousands of beneficiaries in the direct‑build approach.  

  4. Cash transfer was a more cost‑effective approach when the unit costs, completion of targets, and dropouts were compared for each approach. Per unit, CRS spent less on shelters and toilets using a cash‑transfer approach than using direct build. CRS was able to complete all 20,000 targeted shelters and toilets within 20 months over a large geographic area largely due to the scalability of the cash‑transfer approach. For every $100 spent using the cash‑transfer approach, 97 percent was used by beneficiaries to build shelters and toilets. An average of $3 (or 3 percent) of every $100 spent delivering cash transfers did not get invested into shelter and toilet construction by beneficiaries. In these cases, beneficiaries did not comply with the requirements to receive subsequent cash transfers, or “tranches”, and therefore did not complete the program. Findings suggest that the overall cost effectiveness of the completed targets would have been greater if a cash‑transfer approach had been used rather than a mixed‑methods approach. 

  5. Effective social mobilization is key to the success of the cash‑transfer approach, and significant human resources should be dedicated to social mobilization when employing this approach.

  6. Environmental site assessments (collecting data on the highest seasonal flood levels, water table, and soil type) should be conducted before implementation of any cash‑transfer or direct‑build program so that guidance and training on the most resilient shelter and toilet designs can be given to engineers, foremen, carpenters and beneficiaries during pre‑construction meetings before the first cash transfer is released.

    Based on the findings of this study, CRS has developed a decision‑making tool to help practitioners decide which approach will be most appropriate, effective, and efficient depending on which influencing factors are at play.  

    To download the decision making tool please click here.

Risk‑mitigation strategies for cash transfers

According to the discussions and interviews, common trends of risks arose for the cash‑transfer approach. Throughout program implementation, CRS staff/contractors proactively mitigated these risks or improved/changed aspects of their programming. The strategies for implementation listed below shed light on the variety of approaches for mitigating risk factors in a cash‑transfer approach.

Issue Risk-mitigation strategy Details
Delay in beneficiary completion of requirements for each tranche Include a specific time frame in the memorandum of agreement with beneficiaries

Added a time frame to the MOA to make beneficiaries aware and accountable. Issued disqualification notices if requirements were not met within a specified time frame.

Ensured a visible presence in the community, especially following a cash transfer release

Reported non- compliance to barangay council.


Proper encouragement and motivation to complete construction Clustering/ cluster leaders Clustering ( in rural areas) of neighbors created strong peer pressure.

Sensitization and mobilization creating a shared understanding of the project and its sustainability






Pre- construction meetings, regular community meetings, constant monitoring and follow-up.


Behaviour change communications method.


Pre-construction meetings (including " build back safer" and hygiene promotion) were held before each tranche was released to promote participation, help beneficiaries properly understand how to reconstruct or repair their shelter and toilet, and ask any questions on what was expected of them. The trainings were very practical and included demonstration on installation, proper guidelines etc.

Palo created a "build back safer" music video and Samar created a "build back safer" jingle to help participants the message and the techniques. These behavior change communication methods reinforce knowledge /skills that resulted in the adoption of the "build back safer" techniques.


Navigating difficult community situations and promotiong ownership

Participatory decision-making in the community through use of project implementation committees 

Decision making should be participatory. The results of meetings should be known  and community of members involved, thus creating ownership of the process.

Ensures that information is reported to CRS and barangay officials about the misuse of funds, unqualified beneficiaries, theft, land dispute etc.

Misuse of money by beneficiaries (funds spent on on debt, livelihoods, food, appliances travel,and other basic)

Close monitoring by foremen, engineers, and social mobilizer officers, and field assistants

Frequent monitoring by social mobilization officers, foremen and engineers ensured a strong visible, presence in the communities.

It is important to choose an appropriate day to release funds: not before festival days or weekend. Some teams reported it was best to release funds on a Monday morning.

Make sure beneficiaries buy materials on the same day as the cash release. High CRS/staff visibility on the days after the tranche is released encourages beneficiaries to buy materials immediately

Beneficiaries overseeing construction

Manuals/guides/ BBS techniques/ completion checklists

By equipping beneficiaries with manuals and guides they were able to follow the procedures. Also, the engineers’ checklist provided the beneficiaries with a list of what was expected. Beneficiaries were aware that without proper completion of the checklist, the next tranche could not be released; therefore, they had to follow and complete every step.

CRS hopes that this body of work will contribute greatly to the field of post‑disaster shelter/WASH recovery interventions and help those practitioners  who are considering cash‑transfer and in‑kind/direct‑build modalities.

The Full report of the Pintakasi Review can be downloaded here 

This article was written by Anna Hrybyk,  Program Coordinator Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Program I Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

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