CASH AND VOUCHER ASSISTANCE (CVA): Relief, Respect & Dignity

Funded by DCA and implemented by local partners in close collaboration with the elected local levels, Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) has provento be an effective mechanism to distribute relief to hundreds of victims of disasters, like Covid-19 and floods,giving them the right to choose what they need.

Feb. 6, 2022, 8:09 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 15, No. 12, Feb.04, 2022 (Magh 21,2078) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Ganiram Saud, 45, a resident of Ward No. 10 of Bhimdutta Municipality ofKanchanpur District of Sudurpaschim Province, lost his house, land and crop to the massive floods caused by the torrential rain of late September 2021.

His family faced floods that worsened their suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and job loss in India. However, Saud, who had faced hardships during the devastating floods of 2014, found relief materials and kinds distributed through CVA with ease and in time. Selected by a committee composed of elected representatives, representatives of local NGOs and community members on meeting the basic criteria, Saud, an unemployed person with a family of five, received relief materials as per his need and choice.

IME Pay, a leading digital wallet and online payment in Nepal, was involved in the process of delivering the cash worth NPR 4,500

Local-level representatives, community leaders, local businessmen and financial institutions like IME Pay have been involved in the process to protect the dignity of victims who receive the cash voucher to purchase goods as they wish.

Distribution of cash to the victims during the pandemic and disaster has been in practice in Nepal for a long time but the CVA process respects the dignity of the victims giving them choices in purchasing materials on their own.

Funded by DCAand implemented by Nepal National Social Welfare Association (NNSWA), DCA’s local partner, in close collaboration with Bhimdutta Municipality, CVA has included many items ranging from food and nutrition to agriculture inputs seeds to provide early recovery to disaster-affected like Saud..

But this is not the first time CVA was at work for the needy. The CVA process was used to provide emergency relief to the people suffering from the first and second wave of Covid-19 and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in some areas of Kanchanpur, Kailali and Achham districts in the past. Given its effectiveness, CVA was applied to deliver relief materials to the victims of floods in September 2021.

In the traditional relief distribution system, the victims, mostly poor and marginalized, used to have no choice and no say in materials as they had to accept the goods and kinds delivered by various agencies. As the criteria of selecting the victims were vague, and the materials were given to them as relief packages, they had to accept what was given. However, in the CVA implementation process by DCA, the local governments and elected representatives were part of it in stages, from a selection of beneficiaries to deliver of the cash and voucher. Under CVA, priorities were given to the families of the daily wage labor, Dalits, those that lacked regular income source and those without agricultural land during the pandemic

“Our community had a bitter experience of securing emergency relief materials in 2014. We had protested against the distribution of low-quality relief materials then. But the voucher worth of NPR 4500 provided by NNSWA and local ward this time gave us a lot of choices and freedom to select the most urgent needs from local groceries,” said Saud.

Having a good experience of delivering relief to the people in need during the Covid-19 lockdown, NNSWA, a local partner of DCA, implemented the CVA mechanism to address the needs of flood-affected populations.

“Unlike the traditional responding systems which offer physical items and kinds to the affected people by the agencies concerned, CVA’s approach is a human rights-based approach with the safety, dignity and rights of the people affected by the disaster. Respecting the dignity of individual victims, CVA gives victims choices to select items,” said Dinesh Gurung, Programme Manager- Humanitarian and DRRof DCA.

From the beginning, CVA schemes give importance to the information collection regarding the state of the affected population, availability of goods in the local market and selecting the right beneficiaries. Chosen by a committee of elected representatives, community members and local partners with broader consultations and set criteria, there is a rare chance of the wrong ones being included.

“Supporting Covid-19 affected populations through CVA in 2020 and 2021, we implemented CVA to revive the livelihood of flood-affected population,” said Ganesh Thagunna, Section Officer of Bhimdutta Municipality (Environment officer /Disaster focal person). “We are grateful to DCA for funding this, as we have realized it is very vital in response times.”

The fund given by DCA through NNSWA is also used for strengthening local level institutional capacity as well. “DCA helped us to develop Cash and Voucher Guidelines which can be used as a reference for the future. This has helped to build the institutional capacity of the local level,” iterated Thagunna.

Rajendra Chaudhary, a construction worker, had no regular income since the crisis of Covid-19 in March 2020. “As we had lost everything and there was no work, it was very tough for me being the sole breadwinner to feed nine members of the family. The NPR4500 cash voucher helped me to purchase food that we needed from the local groceries. It was a great relief as I could provide for my family.”

For 45yearold Gopal Singh Bohara, a small shop owner of Bhimdutta Municipality Ward No. 14 of Kanchanpur district, the Covid-19 crisis made his life more difficult as the lockdown affected his business and income.

“I was managing food by asking here and there as I had nothing left at home. After the lockdown, I was not able to open and run my shop and I did not have any other option of income generation,” said Bohara. “With the cash support I received, I have repaid some of my debt and added a few goods in the shop now. The shop is again helping me get back on my feet and uphold the expenses of my family of six.”

The lockdown has badly affected the groceries and small agricultural farms run by poor and marginal communities of people like Bohara. In the absence of cash, many of them were unable to pay the rent. The farmers were unable to purchase seeds, grow them and sell vegetables. The lockdown had multiple effects in the lives of the people and mainly their occupation and income.

During the pandemic and lockdown in 2020 and 2021, DCA provided approximately 21 million Nepali rupees worth of support for Covid-19 response, reaching directly to over 25,000 individuals with food packages and hygiene kit support.

DCA through NNSWA also provided cash assistance of up to NPR20,000 to small and micro business enterprises in Kanchanpur to revive their business.

“Through our discussions, consultations with the representatives of local levels and community, we picked the families who were unable to manage food and were in severe crisis. The local government was doing its best, but it needed more support. Thus, we thought that the best way would be to approach them with cash support so that they could choose what they want to do with it,” says Ashok Bikram Jairu, Executive Director, NNSWA, DCA’s partner in Kanchanpur District.

In the first and second waves of Covid-19, many victims were in a great panic because the members of their families got infected with the virus. Living under the vicious cycle of poverty, it was difficult for them to take care of their family members as they could not afford medical treatment and a much-needed diet for the infected.

With a criterion of ‘Infected with Corona Virus’ in the list of the beneficiary selection processes, Chaudhary and Boharawere selected. “At a time when we were unable to provide any financial support as we had spent most of the resources to manage the crisis in early days, the support provided by DCA to small and micro-enterprises saved the life of poor and marginal communities in many ways,” opined Dhan Bahadur Thapa, Chairman of Beldandi Rural Municipality.

CVA For GBV

Covid-19 lockdown also increased the number of incidents related to GBV. Funded by DCA, Dalit Women Rights Forum (DWRF) a local partner of DCA, in collaboration with local levels has supported GBV survivors of poor and marginalized communities of Kailali district.

“The lockdown had affected my daily income as I used to work in others’ fields and help feed my two children,” shared Chandani Bhatta, who is a survivor of domestic violence and abuse from her husband.

Rays of hope shined for her when DWRF provided her with legal and livelihood support. Seed money of NPR 15,000 as multipurpose cash assistance was given to her.

DWRF had organized a series of dialogue and interaction programs among the stakeholders including local governments. During the pandemic, cases of rape, suicide and GBV were noticed. DWRF was able to support 40 such serious GBV cases during that time through counseling, legal aid and livelihoods input.

In the second wave of pandemic also, DWRF, DCA and municipal governments took decisions to support GBV survivors with cash through the approach of CVA under the Emergency Response Project.

15 survivors of GBV and extremely vulnerable cases received cash assistance which helped them with living expenses, seed money for small businesses, inputs for legal aids and other needed support such as medicines and education.

Adopting CVA in Nepal’s Relief System

For decades, Nepal followed the traditional ways of providing the relief package to the victims of natural disasters. With distribution based on a top-down approach, the relief materials did not match the needs of local populations.

However, cash voucher schemes provide enormous choices for the victims. As people affected by Covid-19, GBV and floods were able to purchase the goods from the local groceries as per their requirement through the Cash vouchers they were given.

“After evaluating the report of CVA mechanism during the floods and Covid-19 crisis, Ministry of Social Development is now considering adding the process as a scheme to reach victims with relief,” said Narendra Singh Karki, spokesperson of the Ministry of Social Development of Sudurpaschim Province.

“All three tiers of government have authority to implement the rescue, relief and rehabilitation program as per the available resources and local needs. Local Level governments can choose the modalities and partners to implement the relief packages. The authority’s concern is that such relief packages should be sustainable,” said Dr. Dijan Bhattarai spokesperson of NDRRMA.

The size of cash assistance was determined jointly by the implementing partners and the municipalities considering the relevance to similar future assistance from the government.

To make the new scheme successful, DCA’s implementing partners visited, consulted and collected information on whether traders could run their services if CVA was implemented.

“Engagement with local government officials and elected representatives to reach consensus on the CVA was the first step. We held several rounds of formal and informal discussion on the potential scope of work including on the scaling up of the CVA or using other resources from government and other non-governmental actors,” explained Jairu..

As an international development and humanitarian organization serving Nepalese communities who are marginalized through a rights-based approach, DCA’s CVA program helps communities in reducing the negative impacts of Covid-19 in Kailali, Kanchanpur and Achham districts of Nepal with mixed modalities based on the local contexts.

This project has made a good achievement in BhimduttaMunicipality in Kanchanpur, Gauriganga Municipality and Dhangadi Sub-Metropolitan City and Kailari Rural Municipality in Kailali, and Mellekh Rural Municipality in Achham.

During the COVID-19 crisis and floods, the CVA has proved to be an effective way to reach the victims respecting their dignity and giving them the freedom to choose their own relief materials. The local community and the government stakeholders have really appreciated the CVA scheme and are working on adopting it for future responses too.

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