E-transfers in emergencies

November 4, 2014

Electronic transfers, or e-transfers, are a form of value transfer that relies on digital payment systems. The great many benefits they can realise for aid recipients and aid agencies alike in terms of increased security, convenience, privacy, speed, reduced operational/transaction costs and logistics, etc. have been widely documented. Equally, many aid agencies have experienced challenges in implementing e-transfers, including in relation to mobile network coverage and reliability, the presence of e-transfer agents, liquidity constraints and low education levels among beneficiaries. Learning from and responding to these challenges is essential.

Following recommendations made in Cash Learning Partnership research in 2011 on e-transfers ‘New technologies in cash transfer programming and humanitarian assistance’ and demonstrated interest from the CaLP community of practice; CaLP has undertaken an additional three pieces of work in this thematic area in 2013, of which this is one. The other two pieces include the development of “Principles and operational standards for the secure use of personal data in cash and e-transfer programmes” and a study of factors affecting the cost-efficiency of e-transfers compared to more manual methods.

These “E-transfers in Emergencies: Implementation Support Guidelines” are intended for the field practitioners of aid agencies engaged in humanitarian responses incorporating cash transfers to be delivered through digital payment systems as well as their extended teams in management and programme support functions.

These E-transfers in Emergencies: Implementation Support Guidelines assume prior knowledge of cash transfer programming and focus exclusively on implementing  e-transfers and do not elaborate on decisions relating to whether or not cash is a viable programme option. Therefore, the programme lifecycle begins with assessing which e-transfer option is best suited to deliver a given cash-based intervention.

These E-transfers in Emergencies: Implementation Support Guidelines are designed as guidance sheets that can be used as reference documents to enable practitioners to easily access their sections of interest or relevance, yet some elements are cross-referenced throughout the documents.

The guidelines are organised into 5 sections:

A. Types of e-transfer mechanisms B. Choosing e-transfer mechanisms C. Setting up and using e-transfer mechanisms D. Compliance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Data Protection and Complaints E. Additional guidance

For an easier use, all additional guidance in section E can be downloaded separately below.

1. Cash transfer programming reference document


Cash transfer guidelines and tools

Good Practice Review 11: Cash transfer programming in emergenciesHumanitarian Practice Network, ODI (2011)
The Use of Cash and Vouchers in Humanitarian CrisesDG ECHO (2013)
The Sphere Project (Chapter 4.3)The Sphere Project (2011)
Delivering MoneyCaLP (2010)
The Use of Cash and Vouchers in Humanitarian Crises. DG ECHO Funding GuidelinesDG ECHO (2009)
Cash and Vouchers ManualWorld Food Programme (2009)
Guidelines for Cash Transfer ProgrammingInternational Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (2007)
Cash Workbook: A practical user’s guide for the preparation and implementation of cash projectsSwiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (2007)
Implementing Cash-Based InterventionsAction Contre La Faim (2007)
A Practical Guide for Cash-Based Response in EmergenciesHorn Relief (2007)
Cash-based Responses in EmergenciesHumanitarian Policy Group, ODI (2007)
Cash-Transfer Programming in EmergenciesOxfam (2006)


Voucher programming

Agriculture in emergencies: Guidelines on the use of seeds, fertilisers and cashBritish Red Cross (2000)
CRS Seed Voucher and Fairs: Using Markets in Disaster ResponseCatholic Relief Services (2004)
Implementing Cash-Based InterventionsAction Contre La Faim (2007)


rtCash for work

Cash For Work programming: A practical guideOxfam (2002)
Guide to Cash-for-Work ProgrammingMercy Corps (2006)


2. Procurement process for an e-transfer service provider 3. Prerequisites for selecting an e-transfer service provider 4. Cash emergency preparedness risk assessment 5. Sample mobile usage and awareness questionnaire 6. Interview guide/checklist of key issues with service providers 7. Minimum contract requirements with an e-transfer service provider 8. Fraud and corruption risk mitigation template 9. CASH – Sample-post distribution monitoring (PDM) tools 9. VOUCHER – Sample-post distribution monitoring (PDM) tools 10. Sample data protection clauses: Beneficiary notice and consent 11. Sample data protection clauses: Aid agency and e-transfer service provider 12. Data protection principles

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