Zambia: journey towards cash based interventions in refugees settlements


Transition from food to cash: Since 2014, after the withdrawal of WFP’s food assistance in Meheba, UNHCR Zambia, moved to providing targeted cash assistance to meet basic needs. The assistance was delivered through a partnership with Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS) who was already running a social cash transfers for the most vulnerable residing in the remote and poor locations in Zambia.

Transition to digital payments: The introduction of the cashfor-food program was not without its challenges. The assessment conducted in Meheba settlement by UNHCR in collaboration with United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) revealed these key challenges: lack of reliability of CBI payment; fear of missing out during payment distribution; perceived lack of transparency; and CBI amount too low to meet needs. To address these shortcomings, in 2017, through partnership with UNCDF, UNHCR Zambia shifted from providing persons of concerns in Meheba with cash in envelope to digital payments. The digitization is implemented through a contract between UNHCR and Standard Chartered Bank Zambia in partnership with Airtel Money in Meheba and MTN Mobile Money in Mayukwayukwa. The Bank of Zambia (BoZ) and Zambia Information & Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) further facilitated the digitalization by recognizing the Refugee Certificate (household level document) as valid Know Your Customer identity proof.

Transition to direct implementation: UNHCR also moved away from implementing CBI through MCDSS to direct implementation.


CBI strategy for Zambia Operations: On the commitment from the Operations to monetize services offered to PoCs, a CBI strategy has been developed and approved by the operations. The strategy aims to expand and systemize the use of CBI across UNHCR’s interventions in Zambia to the PoCs mainly refugees living in Lusaka, Meheba, Mayukwayukwa and Kawambwa. Under this strategy, an unconditional multi-purpose cash grant is provided on a bi-monthly basis to targeted groups including new arrivals, single headed-households, differently abled persons, unaccompanied minors and elderly population. It also, envisaged to pursue a CBI sectoral approach to support livelihoods, education and shelter.

Process of implementation: To assist UNHCR Zambia staff to carry out CBI and achieve efficiency and quality output, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) has been developed to govern and guide the implementation including transparent eligibility criteria for enrolment in CBI.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees