BrandArena: Humanitarian aid workers need more flexibility when distributing relief, says Devex and Visa report

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Humanitarian aid workers need more flexibility when distributing relief, says Devex and Visa report

Visa, a world leader in digital payments, and Devex, the independent news organization covering development and humanitarian aid, have published a report showing international aid professionals believe a more flexible approach to aid delivery is needed, amid increasing geopolitical instability and climate change. 

The report, which surveyed almost 1,000 aid professionals globally and is titled Reimagining Aid in the Digital Age: Building Global Capabilities to Serve Local Needs, asked respondents about the benefits and challenges of various forms of aid delivery, from digital cash transfers to food vouchers. 

The survey found virtually all respondents (94%) believe multiple options for aid delivery is important. Roughly two-thirds (68%) say meeting the humanitarian aid delivery preferences of recipients is a top criterion for decision-making in crises, and 78% say there is an increased need for cost-efficient and cost-effective aid delivery. 

Rajiv Garodia, SVP and Global Head of Visa Government Solutions said: “The message from aid workers is loud and clear: they need multiple cost-effective options. Today, aid programs are too often forced to make do with what they have at hand, even if it’s not appropriate. 

That leaves them vulnerable – for instance, relying heavily on cash vouchers exposes you to inflation spikes. Giving aid programs more choice, with multiple options for aid delivery, will help build resilience, meaning vulnerable people can get exactly what they need, at the right time.”  

No one-size-fits-all solution

Survey respondents did identify situations where specific types of aid delivery were likely to be most valuable. For instance, nearly three quarters (74%) agreed digital payments could be particularly helpful to climate and disaster emergency responders. This reflects how the speed and security of digital payments can be beneficial in unstable, post-disaster environments. 

Most respondents (70%) agreed the COVID-19 pandemic had demonstrated the importance of developing user-friendly regulations for accessing digital payments. However, more than half (55%) of those surveyed still said a lack of digital and financial literacy holds back wider adoption of digital payments. 

Raj Kumar, President and Editor-in-chief at Devex, said: “Aid workers operate in complex, nuanced environments, and they need a comprehensive toolbox to reflect that.

Digital aid is a perfect case in point: it has many benefits and holds huge potential, but its rollout must be preceded by significant digital and financial upskilling, as well as improved access to formal identification. Ensuring inclusivity and offering choice is therefore essential”.

Other noteworthy survey responses

• The top three enablers of humanitarian digital payments are improved access to gateway technologies such as phones and computers (62%), improved digital infrastructures (56%), and increased trust in digital payments (46%).

• Top challenges faced by actors involved in digital humanitarian aid included a lack of coordination and communication among financial service providers (62%), and bureaucracy and policy roadblocks (57%).

• Cash-in-hand distributions are the most common delivery method (as identified by 41% of respondents) as well as being the most inclusive direct aid option (54%), however it was also ranked the least secure (10%) and the least transparent (16%).

Access the full report and its findings here: 

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