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Multipurpose Cash Assistance

Multipurpose cash assistance offers people affected by crises the flexibility and dignity to choose how to cover their needs. But humanitarian actors must find new ways of working together to ensure it is incorporated effectively into the humanitarian system.

Multipurpose Cash Grants, CaLP (2016)

Why is this theme important?

Multipurpose Cash Assistance (MPCA) or Multipurpose Cash Grants (MPGs) are unrestricted cash transfers that people affected by crises can use to cover their basic needs. By its nature, MPCA is the assistance modality which offers people a maximum degree of choice, flexibility and dignity. There is also growing evidence that it is more cost-efficient and cost-effective to meet multiple needs.

The transfers can be either one off or regular, and the amount of money is based on how much a household needs to cover a set of basic and/or recovery needs.

By making sure people can cover their basic needs, MPCA allows people to make the most of in-kind goods and access services, contributing to more successful sector-specific interventions, as seen in Figure 1.

But this requires new ways of collaborating between humanitarian actors, at all stages of the program cycle, and across sectors. While solid tools exist to support collaboration, they have not been widely adopted and MPCA is still used in an ad-hoc way. Challenges remain to be addressed if we are to successfully fit MPCA into the humanitarian system.                                                  

What should progress look like in this area?

MPCA cuts across a number of the objectives of the Global Framework for Action, in particular Global Objectives #4 – Quality, #5 - Coordination and #6 - Evidence. For the potential of MPCA to be fully realised, success will mean that:

  • Response analyses and our understanding of basic needs are informed by a multi-sectoral approach, including market assessment information
  • There is a common understanding of how MPCA can contribute to meeting basic needs, and how it should be complemented by other interventions
  • Multi-sectoral outcomes of MPCA, as part of a broader humanitarian response, are systematically monitored
  • The challenge of integrating MPCA in the humanitarian coordination architecture has been addressed
  • An evidence base for the quality of MPCA has been built, which considers what operational model is most appropriate to maximise quality MPCA, by context.

Recent initiatives

ECHO ERC Consortium for ‘Increasing the Uptake of Multi-Purpose Cash Grants in Emergency Responses’ 

This Save the Children-led project developed processes and tools to enhance inter-agency capacity to collaboratively design MPCA at scale. Read an overview of the Consortium here.

The Consortium produced the following tools:

The Basic Needs Assessment (Save the Children)

Basic Needs Assessment - Background Concepts

Basic Needs Assessment - How To

Basic Needs Assessment - Ethiopia pilot

Basic Needs Assessment - Nigeria pilot

The Multi-Sector Market Assessment (developed by UNHCR and piloted by the Consortium)

Multi-sector Market Assessment: Companion Guide and Toolkit

Cash Feasibility Assessments (OCHA)



Delivery Guide and Assessments for financial service provision (Mercy Corps)

The Delivery Guide: Scoping the Humanitarian Payments Landscape

Response Options Analysis and Planning (Save the Children)

Response Options Analysis and Planning Guide

ROAP pilot Nigeria

ROAP pilot Ethiopia

Monitoring for MPGs (DRC)

         Multipurpose Cash Grants (ERC Consortium) - Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

         Standard Operating Procedures for Multi-Purpose Cash (MPC) grants

         Final Report, MPG Monitoring Toolkit - Development and Guidelines

         MPG Monitoring Tool Development and Piloting for ERC Consortium in Borno, Nigeria

         MPG Monitoring Tools & Guidance: Development and Piloting for ERC Consortium in Fafan & Jarar Zones, Ethiopia

         Participatory Monitoring for Cash Programs in Emergency Response

Learning from the consortium is captured in Learning and Ways Forward from the Final Symposium, and the case studies from the pilots in Nigeria and Ethiopia.


Learn more

Training Courses & Materials

Core Cash Transfer Programming Skills for Programme Staff
Available as a 5-day face to face training course. 

Monitoring 4 CTP
1-day face to face training course.

Response Analysis and CTP 
3-day face to face training course.

Please log in to Kaya to access these courses.

Evidence & Other Resources  

How to: Tools & Guidelines

For tools produced by the ECHO ERC consortium see Ongoing initiatives section.

News & Discussion

Discussion on multipurpose cash in emergency theory of change

Grand Bargain cash meetings – CaLP’s analysis

D-groups Sign up to CaLP's discussion groups Click here

MPG as a foundation for sector-specific interventions. Source: UNHCR, CaLP, DRC, OCHA, Oxfam, Save the Children, WFP (2015), 'Operational Guidance and Toolkit for Multipurpose Cash Grants'