Restoring Humanity, A Cash Transfer At A Time

Published August 19, 2016 by Adeso Communications

A beneficiary signing against her cash tranfer installement in Badhan. Photo-Daniel Gerstle/Copyright Adeso


As the world marks World Humanitarian Day (WHD) today, we take a moment to pause and reflect on what Adeso’s role and contribution to build One Humanity.  This year’s WHD follows one of the most pivotal moments in the history of humanitarian action: the World Humanitarian Summit.  During the Summit, Adeso joined a group of other likeminded organizations to launch NEAR, a global movement of local organizations working to advance a more locally driven and focused approach to humanitarian aid.  Today, the scale of human suffering is great due in large part to the complexity and prolonged crises we face.  This calls for innovative and bold solutions to alleviating human suffering and building stronger more resilient communities. 

Adeso is doing its part to lead this charge and this year marks our 25th year of providing dignified, people centred and driven humanitarian response to vulnerable communities in Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan through our cash transfer program. 

Degan Ali, Adeso’s Executive Director notes that largest ever documented cast transfer in Somalia and probably in the horn of Africa was conducted by Adeso in 2003. This was after the realization that it is the people themselves who know what they need in an emergency situation. Humanitarian agencies might conclude that the people need food aid in a drought or famine context but there is a realization that some people need medicine.

According to a report released by DFID, the use of cash transfers as a form of humanitarian aid had increased from 1% total of all humanitarian aid in the world in 2004 to a current 6%. It was not until the 2011 famine in Somalia that cash transfers were given international attention when aid agencies remitted cash to over 1.5 million people, helping them to survive and recover. While  cash transfers have gained in effectiveness and applicability over the years,  more still needs to be done.

Today, Somalia and Puntland are facing severe drought conditions following successive seasons of below-average rains and nearly 40% of people living in the area were in need of assistance throughout the year.

Somalia is primarily made up of pastoralist communities that  have diverse needs and coping mechanisms for survival. They have a local social support system to facilitate borrowing among community members  during the dry seasons, and debts are paid back during the wet seasons after harvest. In the case of drought or famine, the communities need food and water for their livestock as well as their own needs.

“I remember visiting a village in Somalia and seeing the people feed maize to their livestock. This is the same maize they were given as food aid, and that got me thinking. Do we really know what the community needs in humanitarian situations? The maize given to the people there was not part of their staple diet and also, it was too hard for them to consume and so they resorted to feeding it to their animals.” says Degan during a recent interview.

Giving cash to the affected in any humanitarian situation is more effective, transparent and accountable. Adeso was an early pioneer of cash transfer programming and continues to use this methodology today.  We believe that this dignified form of aid  helps to empower affected people to make their own choices, allowing them to prioritize immediate needs and support their survival and recovery from the disaster. If the overheads are lower, cash transfers help to stimulate the local economy because the markets get stronger when you inject money in it.

This week the Puntland Government declared the region drought stricken after two consecutive failed rainy seasons with an estimated 204,666 families in dire need of humanitarian assistance to survive this drought before the situation worsens. Adeso is already on the ground and prepared to respond by providing cash transfers to families in need. 

For more information on how you can partner with Adeso and the communities we serve and help us do more, please visit our website.

To learn more about our work in cash based programming please read the following articles below.

Transforming Humanitarian Aid with Cash Transfers – Podcast with Degan Ali and Owen Barder

A deadly delay: risk aversion and cash in the 2011 Somalia famine

Penny to Pound - Cash transfers enable Marwo improve her life

A Promising Future for Sahra in the Middle of Tough Times

FAQ’s About Our Cash Transfer Programs

Adeso Cash Training Programs