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Child Outcomes of Cash Transfer Programming: A synthesis of the evidence around survival, education, and protection in humanitarian and non-humanitarian contexts

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Save the Children

The use of cash transfer programmes (CTP) has risen in recent years to become an integral element of poverty reduction and social protection strategies in the developing world. The humanitarian sector has more lately adopted CTP and within the past decade there has been a growing awareness of the important role that cash transfers can play in an effective and efficient humanitarian response. In fact, when conditions permit, cash transfers are being increasingly recommended over typical in-kind goods, as they are often more cost-efficient, have the potential to boost local markets (as opposed to replacing them) and enable affected populations to make their own financial choice.

Within the context of children’s wellbeing, CTP are a popular means of giving poor people additional financial resources enabling them to invest in their children’s future: the idea is to help families meet their children’s critical needs, develop their children’s human capital, and break up the generational cycle of poverty. In humanitarian situations meeting children’s critical needs is often particularly difficult due increased demand on limited resources, loss of livelihoods and increased poverty, along with possible displacement. As such, cash potentially has an even more substantial role to play to help meet these needs. 

Substantial evidence has been generated over the last decade on the effectiveness of cash transfers including its impact on children and from within a variety of contexts, including development programmes and humanitarian responses. However, no single work has provided an overall assessment of key outcomes for children in both humanitarian and development contexts without being limited either by the number of indicators reviewed or the socio-political or geographical contexts analysed.

This systematic review attempts to fill this evidence gap by reviewing a comprehensive list of indicators around outcomes for children in health, food security, nutrition, protection, and education. These indicators include both those that indirectly concern children, such as maternal health status, as well as those that directly affect children, such as the child’s health. It also expands the scope to include evidence from both development and humanitarian contexts, generated between 2012 and 2016.

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