The available literature tells us little about the effectiveness of targeting of cash-based initiatives (CBIs) for refugees in Jordan. However, it suggests there are positive impacts on food security for refugees, their ability to pay for rent and utilities and their psycho-social well-being, as well as some reduction in resort to negative coping strategies. The impact of CBIs on income generation
and financial inclusion is far less obvious.
Cash transfers can have direct and indirect positive impacts on economic and social outcomes for refugees (Hagen-Zanker et al, 2018: 60). These impacts payout in a number of ways. Receipt of cash transfers can:
- help a household overcome financial barriers to accessing goods or services, e.g. school uniforms, cost of medicine;
- enable beneficiaries to invest in assets or skills needed for work, or travel expenses to reach the workplace or service provider;
- free up other finance that the household may have (that would otherwise have been spent on food consumption to be spent on goods and services such as education and health);
- reduce the need to resort to harmful coping mechanisms, such as selling assets or sending children to work;
- contribute to reducing stress levels and improving the psychosocial well-being of beneficiary households;
- strengthen their ability to participate in communal activities and focus on priorities beyond short-term survival;
- enable beneficiaries to take the time and risk to search for (better) livelihood opportunities.
Cash-based initiatives have increasingly been used in the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan. The scale, scope and sophistication of cash transfer programming has
developed rapidly over the past several years. This review looked at all cash-based initiatives for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
This annotated bibliography examines the impact of CBIs on refugees and vulnerable Jordanians, and the impact on financial inclusion (workforce participation) of refugees in Jordan. It was not possible to assess effectiveness of targeting because no material was found on this – the reports and studies reviewed focused on impact of CBIs rather than on selection of beneficiaries. The available literature is comprised almost wholly of evaluations/reports by international development agencies and humanitarian actors and think tanks. All relevant literature (evaluations only – not other programme documentation) in English was reviewed, covering a range of different cash-based initiatives.
With regard to outcomes and impact, the literature focuses on Syrian refugees and does not detail the impact of CBIs on vulnerable Jordanians. Key findings in relation to the impact of CBIs on Syrian refugees are as follows:
- Cash transfers have helped refugees to pay rent and, to a lesser extent, utility bills.
- Receiving regular cash transfers reduced pressure on refugees to resort to negative coping strategies, such as child labour. However, the impact on child labour is not conclusive.
- Cash transfers also led to improved food security, including refugees being able to consume both a greater quantity of food and a wider range of foods.
- By freeing up other sources of income, cash transfers helped refugees to access healthcare and education – the latter leading to a reduction in the number of children missing school. Healthcare spending did not improve greatly for adults but did for children: UNICEF’s Child Cash Grant (CCG) was particularly important in this regard.
- Cash assistance reduced stress levels among refugees and improved psycho-social wellbeing.
- Overall, cash transfers led to an improvement in living conditions for Syrian refugees.
There is also some evidence that cash transfers promote empowerment of women, e.g. by giving them a greater say in household expenditure, and reducing inter-household violence. One study highlighted the need for mainstream gender-based violence (GBV) programming in CBIs in order
to minimize protection risks and maximize protection benefits.
With regard to the impact of CBIs on workforce participation of Syrian refugees, the literature points to little evidence of this. Cash transfers do not appear to improve employment or livelihoods opportunities for adults. This is in part because they cannot overcome the barriers to work faced by refugees, such as legal constraints and socio-cultural norms for women. A further factor limiting the potential impact of CBIs on livelihoods is the frequent misperception among refugees that they could lose their cash transfers if they find work. A third factor is a limited support provided through CBIs. Hence, while cash assistance helped refugees meet basic needs (shelter, food) and access services (healthcare, education), the available evidence does not show this leading to income generation.
Factors identified as significant in ensuring the success of CBIs include the regularity and reliability of transfers – ad hoc support cannot be used for regular and critical payments such as rent and therefore has a far less long-term impact. Nonetheless, UNHCR’s winterization cash programme, which involves one-off payments to refugees, has had a positive impact on helping refugees cope with the winter cold. The second factor in CBIs’ success is the provision of subsidised services and additional support. Thus cash assistance enabled refugees to meet education expenses such as uniforms, but access to schooling was only possible because this is free for refugee children. A ‘cash plus’ approach is seen in a recent initiative by UNICEF, called the Hajati (‘my need’) cash transfer: this entails provision of cash alongside additional support services to more effectively overcome barriers to child education than cash alone.