Cash Transfers in Emergencies

Lee, Jennifer

The famine that began in the Horn of Africa during the summer of 2011 is the worst that the region has seen in over 60 years. With 13.3 million people in need of assistance and the lives of 750,000 in jeopardy, there is an urgent need for a quick and effective response. A growing body of evidence suggests that cash transfers are the most appropriate means of providing assistance in food emergencies. This paper examines the use of cash transfers in food emergencies by providing a brief overview of food security and famines, reviewing literature on the use of cash transfers, and providing an example of cash transfer intervention implemented in Somalia between 2003 and 2004. With evidence of the effectiveness of cash transfers in specific contexts, the question remains why these interventions are not more readily used. This paper argues that the reluctance to use cash transfers is rooted in paternalism, and calls upon donors and organizations to reexamine themselves and their organizations in an effort to not only restore dignity to those in need, but to save lives.

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Columbia Social Work Review

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Social Work
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February 13, 2013