Why Cash Is King: How Mobile Cash Transfers Save Lives And Empower Locals In Somalia.

Cash is revolutionising the way that humanitarian aid is being delivered. Somalia is a prime example of this, where in coordination with donors such as European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and Irish Aid, Concern is finding innovative ways to ensure that those most in need are reached while empowering them along the way.

Since the devastating famine in 2011, cash transfers have been used in Somalia to meet the immediate needs of communities while building their resilience to future shocks.

Make shift house in IDP’s camp. Houses are made up of old clothes and sacks reinforced by sticks with plastic sheet on top to avoid rains. Photo: Mohamed Abdiwahab / Concern Worldwide

This is based on a sound understanding of what communities affected by crises – such as conflict, drought and displacement – really need, and what works best to respond to those needs.

Between 2016 and 2017, Somalia experienced four consecutive below average or failed rainy seasons, and was on the brink of famine again in 2017.

These dire circumstances provided another opportunity for cash to show just how effective it can be in saving lives and alleviating suffering. So, why does it work so well?

Cheaper, Faster – Let’s imagine there is a community in the middle of the desert who desperately need food, and fast. You decide to load a plane with supplies, but first you need to source the supplies, charter a plane, find an airstrip to land it, and then there is the matter of getting the supplies from the airstrip to the villages. Roads are impassable or armed groups block the only route.

Khadra* with five of her seven children outside their makeshift house in IDPs camp. Houses are made up of old clothes and sacks reinforced by sticks with plastic sheet on top to avoid rains. Baidoa, Somalia Photo: Alinur Ali Mohamed/ Concern Worldwide *name changed for security reasons

All this can take weeks, or even months, and ships and planes and trucks are expensive. Cash is different – cash reaches further for less.

What’s more, it’s fast, really fast. In 2018, Concern was able to mobilise following floods and cyclones and within 48 hours send enough money for families to buy life-saving supplies.

Sustainability – Cash is particularly effective in Somalia because local markets are most often functional, even in those places which are difficult for aid agencies to reach with more traditional interventions.

This means that as soon as a family receives their mobile money transfer, they can purchase goods in the local market. This in turns drives the local economy, ensuring local farmers, traders and shop owners have a continued market for their produce.

Source: Concern Worldwide