• Report
  • 13 February 2017

Counting cash: Tracking humanitarian expenditure on cash-based programming

This report, commissioned by the Overseas Development Institute, includes data on the volume and nature of humanitarian cash-based programming in 2015 and suggests practical ways to improve tracking of funding for cash and vouchers in the future.

View the full report here

Assistance provided as cash or vouchers to people affected by humanitarian crises can offer greater choice and empowerment compared with assistance provided as goods in kind. At the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, many of the world’s largest humanitarian donors and agencies made a set of commitments, as part of a ‘Grand Bargain’, to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of humanitarian assistance. Among the commitments was an agreement to ‘increase the use and coordination of cash-based programming’.

There is currently no accurate, globally comparable data on the volume of assistance delivered in the form of cash and vouchers. In this report we aim to fill that gap by providing a baseline estimate on the volume and nature of cash-based programming in 2015.

Key findings

  • Data from aid agencies suggests that, in 2015, at least $1.9 billion was spent on humanitarian assistance in the form of cash-based responses (51% cash and 49% vouchers).
  • There is currently no systematic tracking of the volume of humanitarian assistance delivered in the form of cash and vouchers. As such, the international system is not ready to report on its cash-related commitments from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and the Grand Bargain.
  • The overarching barrier to better data on expenditure by modality is the lack of a single, comprehensive systematic means of reporting on programming by cash, voucher and in-kind assistance.


  • All actors – donors and implementing organisations – advocate for and invest in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) as the best long-term options for systematic global reporting on cash, voucher and in-kind expenditure.
  • Agencies implementing cash-based programmes agree on a standard template for the reporting, collection and collation of ‘who does what, where’ data on assistance by modality, with cash- and voucher-specific fields, and coordinate its use at country-level. This data can be linked with the funding data on the FTS to give a picture of actual spending and delivery by modality.
  • All relevant actors are consistent with the use of terminology and data on cash-based programming. That paves the way for agreeing on common ways to disaggregate the data and estimate the relevant programming costs that agencies incur as they build up internal capacity on cash. This financial data, if combined effectively with comparable data on results and impact, can be used to support decision-making on the best way of providing assistance in any given context.

View the full report here

Read our blog: Counting cash in humanitarian contexts

Image credit: Vicki Francis/Department for International Development