Statement – In collaboration with national cash working groups, UN agencies, implementing partners, and donors, REACH works globally and nationally to address core information gaps in cash and voucher assistance (CVA) and provide evidence to support more effective CVA interventions.
As of April 2020, REACH’s work in CVA spans 20 countries and four main themes:
- Harmonised, inter-agency Joint Market Monitoring Initiatives (JMMIs) that bring together many cash actors to regularly collect data on market prices, functionality, and accessibility, which enables the calculation and adjustment of local Minimum Expenditure Baskets as well as of the standard transfer values used in multi-purpose cash.
- Coordinated Joint Rapid Assessments of Markets (JRAMs) that provide a quick snapshot of how and whether markets are able to respond effectively to a well-defined shock.
- More in-depth cash feasibility studies and market assessments that aim to answer larger questions about the structure and functionality of local markets and to support evidence-based advocacy for the most effective aid modality available.
- Thematic assessments tailored to fill specific information gaps: for example, financial service provider assessments, labour market assessments, post-distribution monitoring systems for CVA programmes, and others.
Market monitoring and analysis has the potential to better inform CVA assistance in an effort to help various population groups meet their basic needs. Such assessments are also often designed to monitor the financial burdens placed on households by humanitarian crises, and whether these vulnerable households can reasonably access the goods and services within their local markets. Ensuring that physical, financial, and social access is maintained is paramount for them to meet their needs.
For more information
All of REACH’s cash and voucher assistance-related assessments conducted around the world can be accessed on the REACH Resource Centre through the dedicated Cash section. Users can freely explore the anonymised datasets as well as downloading final published outputs.
14/04/22 – AFGHANISTAN – Longitudinal market functionality trends in the context of the economic crisis
In the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the country has been experiencing an economic collapse that, combined with the legacy of decades of conflict and two successive years of drought, has led to unprecedented levels of need across the country. In light of this ongoing crisis, REACH in Afghanistan has worked closely with the Cash and Voucher Working Group and its implementing partners to continue monitoring the impact on market functionality and the prices of key items, to inform the humanitarian response. In March, REACH presented a market trends analysis (presentation can be found here) based on the findings of the Joint Market Monitoring Initiative (JMMI). In summary:
- Following the spike in food prices observed between July and December 2021 (+37% in the cost of the food basket), the first quarter of 2022 has shown an inversion of the trend, with prices gradually decreasing, although remaining considerably higher than pre-August levels. One of the main contributing factors for the price oscillations is the volatility of the Afghani (that lost ca. 40% against the US Dollar between July and December and then appreciated by 22% during the first quarter of 2022). Such depreciation is to be linked to liquidity issues and limited foreign reserves (US dollars) the country experienced since the change in the de-facto authorities, suggesting that (further) cash injection in the economy is likely to support currency, hence, price stabilization. A second likely factor behind the rise in food prices is the soaring energy costs (+21% in the cost of petrol between September 21 and March 22), in line with the overall country inflation as well as global trends.
- Although items are overall more expensive, both food and non-food items are generally available on the market and the majority of retailers report being confident in their ability to resupply their stocks. Provincial differences are constantly observed for the different items across different months (i.e. limited availability of local wheat was reported in the eastern provinces of the country in March 22) and close monitoring of unavailability can support early identification of supply chain disruptions.
- Following the market disruptions observed in August 2021, traders are progressively reporting fewer difficulties in meeting the demand (10% of KIs in March 22). However, there has been an observed shift in challenges to procuring supply: decrease in transportation issues is paralleled by an increase in financial constraints affecting the ability of traders to purchase goods. Along the same lines, reported barriers faced by consumers to access markets have changed. As conflict has decreased throughout the country and movements are generally safer, reports of insecurity preventing access to markets have plummeted (from 41% in July 21 to 1% in March 22). Similarly, cultural barriers seem to be slightly declining, with nearly all traders reporting women being able to access markets (alone or accompanied). Conversely, financial barriers have been overall increasing as households’ ability to afford market products declines as their costs rise.
- Whilst markets appear overall functional and resilient, the soaring prices present the greatest challenge to traders and consumers. With the worsening of the economic conditions (decrease in income and livelihood opportunities coupled with an increase in food prices), households’ purchasing power is decreasing. This has the dual effect of both exacerbating household’s vulnerability levels, with an enhanced risk of further debt accrual and/or food insecurity, whilst also likely affecting retailers’ ability to purchase goods and trade.
- For the upcoming months, it will be important to monitor closely: 1. the impact international events such as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine may have on the supply chains in Afghanistan and commodity prices; 2. measures taken directly or indirectly to stabilise the Afghani, as this will have profound effects on the cost of living of the population; 3. Consumers and traders purchasing power: income, cost of labour and economic opportunities.
The JMMI will continue to be implemented on a monthly basis, with all data and publications available here.
06/12 – GLOBAL – The effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic on markets in humanitarian crises stemmed mostly from country-level restrictions on movement and trade, which in turn led to short-term price spikes and smaller long-term price increases in many contexts.
In its first two years, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep socioeconomic inequalities within and among nearly every country it touched, negatively affecting poorer populations’ access to everything from income-generating opportunities to medical facilities to basic protective supplies to vaccination against the disease. For crisis-affected populations, a potent economic challenge has been the unintended—or, in some cases, deliberate—side effects of ordinances imposed to protect public health. Restrictions on freedom of movement, mandatory closures of non-essential businesses, bans on the use of public transportation, limitations on daily labour, and constraints on the number of vendors and customers allowed to enter marketplaces have disproportionately affected the poorest members of society, in many cases cutting them off entirely from their livelihoods and their ability to afford basic goods to support their families.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in conjunction with Cash Working Groups worldwide, REACH has been collecting market data through its Joint Market Monitoring Initiatives (JMMIs): response-level monitoring platforms that bring together many actors working in humanitarian cash and voucher assistance to jointly collect data on key commodities and marketplaces. Now, REACH has conducted its first cross-crisis analysis of JMMI data from eight countries—Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Syria, Uganda, and Yemen—to take stock of the pandemic’s effects on markets in humanitarian contexts between January 2020 and August 2021. The analysis revolves around cross-crisis comparisons of key indicators with the goal of discovering common trends, as well as developing initial, non-causational hypotheses around which of these trends may have been connected with the global COVID-19 pandemic and which were more likely to stem from local or national dynamics.
Across the eight countries treated in this analysis, increases were observed in the local-currency costs of most full monitoring baskets and sectoral components of those baskets, a development that eroded vulnerable households’ capacity to purchase basic food and non-food items at a moment when they could hardly afford further financial stress. In some countries, these increases were closely correlated with depreciation of the national currency, and in others may have been driven by highly local factors. In either case, though, the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic on prices could be discerned mostly in the form of temporary, localised price changes in response to country-level restrictions on movement and trade.
Analysing indicators of market functionality over time, meanwhile, shows that certain aspects of functionality were closely correlated with lockdowns, restrictions on movement and importation of goods, and other aspects of country-level public health ordinances imposed to stall the spread of COVID-19. Other local factors, such as insecurity, seasonality, and pre-existing weather patterns, had strong effects on market functionality as well. Further research, in the form of both primary data collection and synthesis of existing country-level studies, will be needed to more fully understand the effects of COVID-19 on local markets by collecting local market actors’ perspectives on the differing dynamics that affected their businesses before, during, and after the pandemic.
30/11 – UGANDA – “Financial service providers mapped to inform cash and voucher assistance
In Uganda, humanitarian organisations involved in the implementation of Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) have to navigate a complex landscape of available Financial Service Providers (FSPs) and delivery mechanisms in order to produce the most effective outcomes. In support of this, REACH conducted an assessment of FSPs and delivery mechanisms to identify opportunities and key challenges.
The report, commissioned by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and supported by the Cash Working Group (CWG) Uganda, draws on key informant interviews with FSPs, their agents, representatives of local communities and humanitarian organisations.
- The operational presence of FSPs varies by location and type of FSP. In particular banks had a stronger presence in or nearby settlements in the South-West Region compared to the West Nile Region. Mobile Network Operators further reported to have larger agent networks inside refugee settlements compared to other types of FSPs such as banks and micro-finance institutions.
- The lack of operational presence or long distance to agents and branch locations was reported as the main barrier to accessing financial services and assistance.
- Mobile money was most frequently reported as a preference for receiving CVA, followed by cash-in-hand distribution.
- Low levels of literacy and digital literacy remain challenges associated with all digital delivery mechanisms such as mobile money, bank transfers and prepaid/smart cards.
- Great distances, the threat of COVID-19, and time consuming distributions were reported as the main challenges associated with cash-in-hand delivery.
As response actors in Uganda are increasing their coordination and collaboration, with the intention to harmonize their approach to CVA, this report aims to provide humanitarian organisations with the information they need to continue to navigate this process for the benefit of the communities they serve.
21/09 – YEMEN – Mapping Cash & Voucher Assistance landscape
Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) is a critical part of the humanitarian response in Yemen, but involved humanitarian organisations have to navigate through a complex and dynamic web of financial regulations, delivery mechanisms, Financial Service Providers (FSPs) and contextual challenges. As a response, REACH conducted an assessment to map Yemen’s CVA landscape and identify best practices and key challenges.
The report, commissioned by the Cash and Learning Partnership (CaLP) and supported by the Cash and Markets Working Group (CMWG) Yemen, draws on key informant interviews with members of local communities, humanitarian organisations and FSPs.
It was found that community members most commonly reported using informal money transfer mechanisms, such as local exchange offices (71%) and hawala’s (64%). This preference and familiarity with agents can be leveraged for a range of delivery mechanisms, but humanitarian organisations also reported challenges with these agents related to corruption and incompliance with humanitarian standards.
A main obstacle for vulnerable groups to collect assistance was the distance from FSPs, and this was also the main reason for all assessed communities to dislike any delivery mechanism.
75% of urban communities reportedly have an ATM in their community, and 49% can reach a bank branch within 15 minutes, indicating the presence of infrastructure for digital CVA modalities.
Mobile money as delivery mechanism can be provided by at least four FSPs and is piloted on small scale by one interviewed humanitarian organisation.
Tokens are identified as a best practice. It helped humanitarian organisations to achieve the monitoring of payments and faster reconciliation in a low-tech manner: without requiring internet and applicable for the widely used cash-in-hand delivery.
Learn more: https://bit.ly/2Z1vfD6
23/07 – Libya’s liquidity crisis – exchange rates, letters of credit (LCs), international prices, conflict, and oil production are impacting the cost of essential commodities
The 2020 Libya Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment found that cash and markets related needs were the most prevalent needs amongst assessed households, which also most commonly overlapped with needs in other sectors. Therefore, REACH teams conducted an additional assessment aimed to support a more detailed understanding of the drivers of the ongoing liquidity crisis in Libya, and the impact thereof on the Libyan population. The methodology consisted of a mix of longitudinal Joint Market Monitoring (JMMI) price data analysis, as well as structured and semi-structured interviews with bank clerks, municipality representatives, parallel market/hawala actors, merchants, and Libyan households.
Topics covered by this brief
- 15 months of price trends analysis from January 2020 – May 2021
- Analysis of key variables affecting the domestic market and essential goods. A step by step analysis on the circular flow of the cash
supply chain in Libya
- Influencing factors of the Libya’s liquidity crisis from the perceptions of bank clerks, municipality representatives, merchants, and parallel market/hawala actors
The final brief contains, among others, an interesting summary infographic that, through mapping the flow of cash through the closed circuit supply within Libya, visualizes the main bottlenecks and factors in cash circulation driving the crisis, such as low confidence in banks among merchants and households, and a resulting preference for parallel market financial exchanges.
22/06 – Uganda – Monitoring the markets in refugee hosting areas is key as Uganda is hard hit by COVID
As Uganda is among some African countries seeing a dramatic rise in the number of infections (a total of 68,779 confirmed infections, including 584 deaths) amid a vaccine shortage, it will be crucial to assess the impact of the tightened lockdown measures on markets and purchase power – in particular for refugees. Indeed, Uganda is one of the top refugee-hosting countries in the world, with a protracted refugee situation and ongoing influxes of refugees from neighboring countries. The country hosts 1,494,505¹ refugees as of 1 June 2021, with nearly 95% of refugees living in settlements primarily in the West Nile and Southwest regions of Uganda.
In view of this situation, the World Food Programme (WFP) has established a regular market price monitoring system across refugee settlements to inform cash-based response approaches. These monitoring efforts predate the COVID-19 crisis. However, due to the changing situation since the Ugandan government introduced COVID-19 containment measures in mid-March 2020, there is a risk that markets could be significantly affected and beneficiaries receiving cash assistance may not be able to access critical goods. In response, with the technical support of the Market Analysis Task Force and REACH in particular, this market price monitoring system has been expanded to capture crucial information to understand the impact of COVID-19 on commodity prices and functionality of markets in refugee communities across Uganda since March 2020.
Main findings from the latest round (April 2021):
- Across regions, prices for key food items in the Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) have mostly remained stable. Since January, the price of millet in West Nile Region (WNR) has increased by 12% from 3400 to 3800 UGX. In Southwest Region (SWR) there has been a slighter increase. The price of maize flour increased by 16% from 1900 to 2200 UGX per KG in April.
- Nationally, 15% of the interviewed vendors reported difficulties in meeting demand and 13% of the interviewed vendors reported concerns about their stocks running out. However, these challenges are more frequently reported by vendors in WNR (24%) compared to those in the SWR (3%)
- The WFP cash transfer value could cover only 35% of the food MEB (41% in South West and 32% in West Nile).
- The market price of the WFP GFA food basket registered a marginal month-to-month increase of 2% from February to April 2021.
The Market Analysis Task Force will continue to monitor market prices and functionality over the coming months, with a particular focus on understanding the effects of the recently announced lockdown on price levels in refugee settlements.
For more information on the Market Monitoring in Uganda: https://www.reachresourcecentre.info/country/uganda/theme/cash/
Stay tuned to get the info on the most recent Market monitoring rounds by subscribing to our Resource center alerts: https://www.reachresourcecentre.info/subscribe/
31/05 – South Sudan – Significant increase in the price of crucial goods in Eastern & Western Equatoria represents a threat for affected communities
To support the effective utilization of cash and vouchers as a modality of humanitarian assistance – destined to strengthen three of the nice Grand Bargain work streams – the Joint Market Monitoring Initiative (JMMI) was created by the South Sudan Cash Working Group (CWG) in 2019. This initiative benefits from the technical support of REACH, funded by the World Food Programme. Marketplaces across South Sudan are assessed on a monthly basis. The goal? To keep a close eye on the cost of the Multi-Sector Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (MSSMEB) in the country.
Down to its core, the Multi-Sectoral Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (MSSMEB) represents the minimum culturally adjusted group of items required to support a six-person South Sudanese household for one month. The cost of the MSSMEB can be used as a proxy for the financial burdens facing households in different locations. The MSSMEB’s contents were defined by the CWG in consultation with relevant sector leads.
To ensure that calculations are provided accurately for the entire country, the JMMI in South Sudan benefits from the participation of 20 aid agencies. Data collection takes place across over 30 locations spread out across the country, and closely monitors the fluctuation in price of 20 key commodities.
The latest output of the JMMI in South Sudan from data collected in early April revealed some concerning trends regarding the increase in price of the MSSMEB, particularly in the Eastern Equatora region:
- In the first week of April 2021, the highest Multi-Sectoral Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (MSSMEB) prices were recorded in Kapoeta Town (Kapoeta South), Kongor, Panyagor (Twic East) and Ulang Town (Ulang). The high MSSMEB prices in these locations were driven by high reported cereal prices of 700 SSP, 718 SSP and 683 SSP per kilogram respectively.
- The highest Multi-Sectoral Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (MSSMEB) was recorded in Kapoeta Town (Kapoeta South) an increase of 113% since March, 2021.
- In just a year, the price of the MSSMEB has increased enormously in three counties in Eastern Equatoria: 144% in Budi, 242% in Kapoeta South, and 130% in Magwi.
- In Kapoeta town, this trend is particularly concerning given the fact that the price of the MSSMEB increased by over 110% since last month!
- A similar increase is witnessed in Yambio town, where the MSSMEB increased by 139% in comparison to last year.
For more information on the JMMI in South Sudan or to view previous rounds of data collection, please feel free to explore its dedicated section on the REACH Resource Centre: https://www.reachresourcecentre.info/country/south-sudan/cycle/723/#cycle-723
09/04 – Syria – Highest Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket value ever recorded in Northeast & Northwest regions
Syria’s Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) represents the minimum culturally adjusted set of food and non-food items required to support a 6-person household for a month. To ensure these items remain available and accessible for populations in need, and to monitor fluctuations in prices which can have a negative impact, REACH and its partners collect monthly information on the prices and availability of 36 basic commodities across Northern Syria, among which 18 are in the SMEB.
In January 2021, REACH and market monitoring partners such as CARE, GOAL, People in Need, and the Syrian Association for Relief and Development (SARD) collected data from 33 sub-districts in the northwest part of the country and 26 others in the northeast. In total, over 4,000 individual shops were assessed in the process.
Results from the situation overviews published in the northeast and in the northwest showed that the value of the regional SMEB was the highest ever recorded. The value of the SMEB increased respectively by 44% and 38% in the Northwest and Northeast regions of Syria.
Having a SMEB value so high is concerning. The SMEB represents a household’s core, non-negotiable expenses, and such high figures suggest that these households are finding it hard than ever before to make ends meet.
Data collected throughout these regions highlighted the extent to which the depreciation of the Syrian Pound (SYP) has had a severe effect on households’ ability to afford basic food items, such as meat and vegetables.
Since July 2020 the SYP depreciated by 22% against the US Dollar (USD) in the Northwest, where the highest exchange rate was recorded in the Afrin community in Aleppo governorate. In the northeastern part of the country, the areas most affected by the depreciation of the SYP are mostly located in the Ar-Raqqa governorate.
Of notable concern, 80% of the total vendors surveyed in Northeast Syria and 78% in Northwest Syria reported that price inflation remained their primary challenge for supplying their stores. Price inflation is particularly prevalent in Idleb.
Further datasets, reports, and fact sheets from the market monitoring exercises conducted in Syria can be accessed on the REACH Resource Centre.
09/04 – South Sudan – 21 humanitarian partners involved in the Joint Market Monitoring Initiative
In South Sudan, a continued and protracted macro-economic crisis, accompanied by currency depreciation, has resulted in high food prices, eroded household purchasing power, and made food unaffordable for a significant proportion of the population. Disruptions caused by COVID-19 to the supply chains of both commercial and humanitarian actors worsened the severity of food insecurity.
The latest Joint Market Monitoring (JMMI) fact sheet published in March is based on data collected on 21 basic commodities drawn from the Multi-Sector Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (MSSMEB) across 52 marketplaces.
The key findings reveal that the cost of the food basket has increased by 9% nationally in the span of a single month, with certain areas witnessing even more severe increases across just two weeks, such as Juba town (60%), Akobo (75%), and Kapoeta (79%).
The full MSSMEB has increased by over 90% between March 2020 and March 2021.
The prices of certain items have severely increased in just over a week, as reported by the JMMI factsheet, such as rice (+120%), sorghum grain (+102%), maize grain (+62%), and flour (+61%).
The full catalogue of cash and markets assessments conducted in South Sudan are also accessible on the REACH Resource Centre.
09/04 – Global – Regularly updated Market Monitoring dashboards in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Iraq
To keep aid actors informed on a regular basis and provide the humanitarian community with up-to-date data from its Joint Market Monitoring Initiatives, REACH has launched interactive dashboards in . Through these dashboards, humanitarian partners can consult all of the information collected, tailoring their searches to retrieve the key information they are looking for within a precise time-range, for certain specific commodities, or within a precise geographical area.
For more information
All of REACH’s cash and markets assessments conducted around the world can be accessed on the REACH Resource Centre through the dedicated Cash section. Users can freely explore the anonymised datasets as well as downloading final published outputs.
The examples provided above represent only a snippet of market monitoring activities that REACH is leading across the world. Aside from the countries highlighted above, REACH is also involved in market monitoring data collection in