Counting cash: tracking humanitarian expenditure on cash-based programming

Working and discussion papers
December 2016
Alexandra Spencer, Chloe Parrish and Charlotte Lattimer

This working paper aims to begin filling the data gap by providing a baseline estimate on the volume and nature of cash-based programming in 2015. Most of the largest implementing agencies of cash and voucher programming have provided us with data on their organisational expenditure relating to cash-based humanitarian programming. By combining this with data from secondary sources, we have established the most accurate estimate yet of overall global expenditure.

Data from aid agencies suggests that, in 2015, at least $1.9 billion was spent on humanitarian assistance in the form of cash-based responses (51% cash and 49% vouchers). There is currently no systematic tracking of the volume of humanitarian assistance delivered in the form of cash and vouchers. As such, the international system is not ready to report on its cash-related commitments from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and the Grand Bargain. The overarching barrier to better data on expenditure by modality is the lack of a single, comprehensive systematic means of reporting on programming by cash, voucher and in-kind assistance. Establishing a common approach requires a concerted global effort to develop and align systems and standards, promote comprehensive reporting, and ensure that information is analysed and used.

This working paper is one of a series of case studies building on the work of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers. The Panel concluded that cash transfers are not used enough in humanitarian responses and not used in ways that take advantage of their transformative potential.