An innovative Save the Children digital cash program helped vulnerable families in Fiji to manage the devastating impacts of COVID-19, a new report shows.
The largest humanitarian cash transfer in Fiji’s history used mobile payment platforms to send almost A$20 million in funds to households identified as having the greatest need.
The report shows that many families assisted in the first phase of the project spent money on food (95%), water (27%), electricity (30%), clothing (19%) and medical expenses (16%) after receiving $400 Fijian dollars. Some also bought cleaning products to keep their homes COVID-safe during the height of the pandemic.
A total of 49% of families surveyed by Save the Children reported putting some money toward their children’s education.
“Cash is the most effective way to assist people in disasters, allowing them to make the best decisions for their own circumstances,” Save the Children Australia Acting CEO Mat Tinkler said.
“We know that children are the hardest hit in any humanitarian crisis, and Fiji continues to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19 today. This funding allowed parents to continue to care for their children despite facing hardship.”
Between December 2020 and June 2021, about A$4.2 million was distributed to 16,772 families who had lost income due to the pandemic or recent tropical cyclones.
The second phase of the project transferred A$15.3 million before ending in January, taking the total amount to A$19.5 million benefitting 39,000 households.
“Cash assistance is a game changer, and during the COVID-19 crisis has been life-saving for many families in Fiji,” said Save the Children Fiji CEO Shairana Ali.
“Countries around the world continue to experience devastating waves of COVID-19, and Fiji is no exception. The third wave of the pandemic, compounded by the impacts of recent disasters, has shuttered businesses and closed schools across the country.”
One recipient, single father Kiniviliame, lives in a public housing block on the outskirts of Suva where he cares for his five children.
“The night I received the text message, to tell you the truth, at home we had nothing at all. My water and electricity bills were piled up,” he said.
“I told the children that we had a blessing. The next day we went out to buy things that we did not have at home, especially the basic needs for every day.”
Using assessment criteria developed with the Fijian government and local NGOs like the Fiji Council of Social Services, Save the Children prioritised vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and people living with a disability.
Save the Children uses cash and voucher assistance to support households impacted by disasters all over the world, however the use of digital cash is a recent development.
Case studies and images available here.
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