CaLP Case Study: Shop vouchers for hygiene kits in Port-au-Prince, Haiti | Haiti

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In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Oxfam
  CaLP Case Study Shop vouchers for hygiene kits in Port-au-Prince, HaitiOxfam GB The Cash Learning Partnership   Vouchers offer a solution to some of the problems of in-kind distributions in densely populated urban areas  1 Humanitarian context Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, the economic system is weak and fragmented, and Haiti is subject to regular natural disasters. On January 12th, 2010 a major earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck 16km from the Haitian capital, Port au Prince. According to estimates by the Haitian Civil Protection Agency, 217,366 people died and 300,572 were injured, although consensus on these figures has never been reached. An estimated 3 million people, representing one third of the national population, were directly affected by the earthquake. Over 1.1 million people were made homeless: 537,180 sought refuge in 349 makeshift camps around Port au Prince, another 511,405 left the capital for surrounding rural areas, and many remained living in the streets close to their houses or in very small settlements throughout the city.Initial humanitarian needs were search and rescue, medical assistance and general water supply, followed almost immediately by provision of shelter materials, sanitation and hygiene, food security, support to livelihoods, solid waste management and rubble removal, camp management and the protection of vulnerable groups. The second phase of the emergency response aimed to increase and consolidate the initial provisions and to find medium-term solutions such as transitional settlement sites, and provide support to those who could return home. 2 Programme overview and rationale Oxfam has been working in Haiti since 1978, with both permanent programmes and humanitarian aid. In response to the 2010 earthquake, Oxfam International decided to focus on water and sanitation, shelter, food security, livelihoods and the provision of Non-Food items (NFIs) in the metropolitan area and some affected areas outside Port au Prince. The voucher programme was part of the second phase of the response, with preparations beginning in late June 2010 and implementation taking place in September - October.The objective of the programme was to improve health conditions in the area of Carrefour Feuilles by facilitating access to hygiene kits for vulnerable families. Beneficiaries were selected from an existing canteen project which was providing daily hot meals to displaced families. In order to deal with the massive challenge and security risks of ‘classical’ in-kind distributions in an urban context, Oxfam decided to pilot a voucher programme for beneficiaries to access hygiene items through local shops.  Assessment Oxfam had already conducted a market assessment that evaluated local shops’ suitability to a cash grant programme. Aspects such as financial and management capacity, levels of expenditures and products traded, as well as availability and prices of key hygiene products of interest for public health promotion (soap, toothpaste, 20-liter buckets, basins, Kotex sanitary pads and toilet paper) were investigated. The items to be included in the kits were selected as a result of a quick household needs survey among the beneficiaries of the canteen project. A further survey also investigated the locations where they accessed hygiene products, as well as costs, quality and type of products.  Another brief market survey showed that some local shops did sell hygiene items although in limited variety and quantity, and that beneficiaries were already buying other essential items from these small-scale shops. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Oxfam’s Public Health Promotion team used a voucher programme to provide beneficiaries with essential hygiene items through local shops. The voucher system was chosen so that beneficiaries could access hygiene items in a normal and dignified way, and in order to pilot an innovative approach to dealing with the challenges of in-kind distributions in an urban setting. Advantages of vouchers The voucher modality was chosen so that recipients could access hygiene products in a normal and dignified fashion, as they used to do before the earthquake. The use of local shops prevented beneficiaries from having to travel long distances. Vouchers were also piloted as a solution to the challenges and security risks of ‘classic’ in-kind distribution in a context of urban poverty. Moreover, Oxfam hoped that by contracting small traders, the voucher programme would help to stimulate local business, leading to longer-term economic gains.  3 Implementation Beneficiaries The project reached 1,000 families. One member of each family could participate in the cash for work activities. Considering the average family size, the project thus contributed to the food security of 8,000 people in Hurungwe district. Targeting method Eligible beneficiaries were selected by partner organisations from five areas where registration was being conducted for the canteen project. Partners were asked to identify 100 vulnerable families per area for participation in the voucher programme. Families were targeted according to the following criteria: no source of revenue, households with high dependency ratio, and households with a family member who was elderly (more than 60 years old), physically or mentally challenged, a widow or widower, pregnant, or chronically ill. Beneficiaries  A total of 551 families were identified as eligible, but only 440 families were included in the pilot, because no suitable shop meeting the criteria was identified in the area where the remaining 111 lived. Delivery mechanism Oxfam used a system of ‘commodity vouchers’, which could be exchanged through contracted shops for a fixed quantity of specified hygiene commodities.  Vouchers were chosen over cash grants because a voucher system would ensure that beneficiaries’ hygiene needs were met, whereas a cash grant might have been spent on other needs.Initially, ‘cash vouchers’ were considered for this project, in order to allow beneficiaries greater choice in selecting hygiene items to meet their specific needs. However, while cash vouchers might have allowed beneficiaries to access hygiene items from a wider list of products and to choose between products according to their needs, commodity vouchers were chosen in order to make the pilot more manageable, and in recognition that small shops were not prepared to deal with stocking a greater diversity of items in increased quantities. Hygiene kit composition and value Each voucher was redeemable for: 10 bars of soap, 2 tubes of toothpaste, 5 rolls of toilet paper, 2 boxes of sanitary pads (Kotex), 1 bucket, and 1 large basin. The value of these items was estimated at 645 HTG (Haitian Gourdes), approximately US$ 15.  Activities  After having been registered, beneficiaries received a voucher that was redeemable at an assigned local shop. In order to give more flexibility and avoid overcrowding in the shops, beneficiaries were given 3-4 days to redeem their vouchers. Shop owners received a list of the beneficiaries who would visit them, and used personal information to verify the identity of the person who presented the voucher, including: first and last names, beneficiary code, mother’s name, identity number, a telephone number and signature. Only after verifying the beneficiary details could shop owners give them the agreed hygiene kit.On distribution days, Oxfam conducted random visits to verify if procedures were being complied with. Pre-selection of shops Oxfam initially pre-selected 14 from the 54 shops involved in their existing cash grant programme. Pre-selection criteria included: ã ability to scale up their storage capacity; ã display and sale of the hygiene items that composed the hygiene kit; Disadvantages of vouchers  Vouchers are administratively burdensome and require a lot of preparation, planning and monitoring, especially when the concept is new and staff are used to in-kind distributions. New risks such as fraud and/ or resale of vouchers can also be challenging to deal with.It also takes time to negotiate contracts with local shops and socialise the programme to beneficiaries, making this a difficult approach for a first-phase response, especially in contexts where there has been no prior preparedness to implement cash and voucher programmes.
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