Cash on a mobile phone: this is the principle that has been implemented in Haiti to help the people who have been profoundly affected by Hurricane Matthew since last October.


It is Tuesday, market day in Beaumont, a commune in the Grand’Anse area of Haiti, and a family needs to make the one and only meal of the day. Under normal circumstances, in this season, Haitians plant and harvest peas, sell coffee grown throughout the year, or cook ‘Tonmtonm’, a dish made with pureed yams. However, Hurricane Matthew destroyed all their crops in October 2016. Their only source of food, while they are waiting for the next harvest, is the little local market.

Today, thanks to the Première Urgence Internationale project, this family will be able to buy vegetables at Beaumont market, simply through their mobile phone. In fact, 3,500 inhabitants of the Grand’Anse department, struggling since the hurricane, are now receiving money transfers, credited on a sim card through a local telephone company.

After taking part in training in the terms of use of the money and possible fraud, each household receives an amount of 105 euros each month (in other words 60% of their monthly food bill1) to be able to buy food and necessary items during the 4 months of the hunger season2.

Within this project, particular attention has been given to monitoring prices every month at the markets, so that any possible price fluctuations can be compensated for by adjusting the amount transferred to the recipients.


This method of food distribution is commonly known as an ‘unconditional cash transfer’. It can have different aims and is characterised by the lack of demands on the people receiving aid.

Unconditional cash transfers follow a principle of independence: the recipients are free to choose how to use the money they receive. The system means that help can get to the most vulnerable people (older or ill people, or those with a disability, etc.).

In certain environments, transferring money to people in need is more appropriate than giving food, livestock or other items, Leaving choice to the recipients is actually recognising that affected populations are best placed to know their own urgent and immediate needs, rather than their ‘donors’.


Because of the money they receive, households can focus on their urgent need for food aid. In parallel, the integrated approach, developed by Première Urgence Internationale, aims to work on the factors and causes of the recipients’ vulnerability, to improve the impact of its work.

In fact, the response in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew covers a variety of needs. It is focussed on several sectors: food security, access to water, hygiene and health, specifically distributing cleaning kits in 200 collective shelters and schools, distributing 1000 hygiene kits and running awareness sessions, deploying two mobile clinics, but also rehabilitating a health centre, three cholera treatment centres and a chlorine depot as well as setting up oral rehydration points and reconstructing 10 rainwater reservoirs. On top of that, there has also been work done to aid agricultural recovery, and to rebuild individual shelters and schools affected by the 2010 earthquake. The combination of working in these different areas helps to improve the impact for the people who will benefit from it all.

1 The amount of a household’s monthly food bill is based on the amount set by the National Coordination for Food Security (CNSA), namely 1087 gourdes (HTG) per person (just over 15 euros) per month or 7609 HTG (105 euros) per household. The amount of aid proposed by Première Urgence Internationale will cover 60% of the monthly food bill, in other words around HTG (64 euros) for 4 months (hunger season).

2 The hunger season is the time before the first harvests, when the grain from the previous harvest can run out. This can lead to shortages and sudden soaring prices, sometimes exacerbated by profiteering.

*Our work is financed with the support of the European humanitarian aid programme (ECHO)


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