Humanitarian organizations have conventionally used direct distribution methodologies to provide households with commodities to help them survive and recover from crises. Non-food items (NFI) such as plastic sheeting, soap, cooking pots, and water jugs are usually distributed in a pre-packaged kit, the content having been decided by practitioners and donors, based on what they deem most critical for household welfare. Cash and voucher interventions present a more flexible alternative to direct distributions, because households themselves can choose items that maximize their welfare. In order evaluate the appropriateness of its NFI activities and illuminate the advantages and potential pitfalls of using cash and voucher interventions to meet the non-food needs of households recovering from the effects of war and displacement, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) carried out a pilot ‘cash for household non-food needs’ program in Maniema Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, in April 2006.
The objectives were to understand the non-food needs of households selected to receive NFI kits, assess the extent to which the UNICEF kit was meeting these needs, and gain insight into the intra-household decision-making dynamics of participating households.