Background: Historically, cash interventions, as opposed to material or in-kind aid, have been relatively uncommon in the humanitarian response to emergencies. The widespread implementation of cash-based programs following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami provided an opportunity to examine cash distributions following disasters. The Mercy Corps cash grant program in Aceh, Indonesia, was a short-term intervention intended to assist in recompensing losses from the December 2004 tsunami.
Methods: An evaluation of the Mercy Corps cash grant program was conducted for the 12-month period following the tsunami using program monitoring data and a systematic survey of cash grant beneficiaries.
Results: in 2005, the cash grant program disbursed more than US$3.3 million to more than 53,000 beneficiaries; the average cash grant award was US$6390, which was shared by an average of 108 beneficiaries. In a beneficiary survey, more than 95% of respondents reported the grant allocation processes were fair and transparent and that grant funds were received.
Conclusions: The Mercy Corps experience with cash programs suggests that cash interventions in the emergency context, when properly administered, can have an immediate impact and serve as an efficient mechanism for providing assistance. Organizations involved in humanitarian relief, particularly donors and nongovernmental organizations, should consider incorporating cash-based interventions as an element of their response in future emergencies. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2008;2:95–103)