Cash: a solution for Ebola recovery

Documentary, Sierra Leone / Liberia, 4 minutes, 2017

In 2014, the Ebola virus began to claim lives and wreck livelihoods in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. 28, 616 people were infected and 11,310 died. To control the virus, communities were placed into quarantine and movements were restricted. People were unable to run their businesses or reach their farms to take care of crops.

Ebola impacted greatly upon people’s ability to find food and in some cases there were more mouths to feed, as households took in those that had no-one else to turn to.

As quarantine measures were relaxed, in order to support affected households and relaunch local economies, Cash Transfer Programming was seen as a solution to food insecurity, caused by the Ebola crisis.

Once vulnerable households are selected, NGOs either distribute cash directly themselves or draw on the expertise of service providers, such as banks, or Mobile Network Operators. Beneficiaries then receive money directly from these service providers or via SIM cards on mobile phones.

Co-ordination was a critical aspect of Cash Transfer Programming during the crisis. With so many different organisations involved, responses to Ebola were at risk of being duplicated or mistakes not shared. A Cash Transfer Working Group was setup to bring all the different stakeholders together, from NGOs to government departments, and harmonise their interventions. Most importantly, communities were involved from the outset, to ensure projects were designed and implemented successfully.

Cash Transfer Programming met many challenges along the way. Infrastructure was poor, with roads often impassable. Most beneficiaries lived in rural areas with little or no mobile network which made digital transfers difficult. Despite the difficulties, people came together to solve the common problem of food insecurity.

Cash Transfer Programming reduced the problem of food insecurity, but to rebuild sustainable livelihoods, other initiatives had to be found, in addition to giving Cash. In Liberia, NGOs gave farmers seeds, tools, and training in modern methods, so that crops could be re-grown quickly, with maximum yields.

“We call the people that gave us money, ‘life-givers’ as they saved many lives.”

With agricultural production restored, people are now returning to markets. Local economies are stabilizing and households have a sustainable source of income. Communities are more resilient and households are better prepared to face other shocks that might occur in the future.

Whilst the impacts of Ebola continue to be felt to this day, Cash Transfer Programming has helped the most vulnerable households get back on their feet.  By injecting money into local economies, markets and communities are thriving once more. 

Cash: a solution to Ebola recovery was commissioned by the Cash Learning Program (CaLP), Oxfam GB and USAID, in order to demonstrate the success of Cash Transfer Programming during a crisis such as Ebola.

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