The present Minimum Expenditure Guidance is an operational tool for the Refugee Response to inform humanitarian multi sector and/or multipurpose cash assistance to meet food needs and a broader set of essential needs of refugees in Uganda.
The guidance seeks to answer the question of what is the minimum amount that a median refugee household requires to meet basic needs that could be covered entirely or partly through the market. The CWG built this guidance document, based on desk review, consultation to multiple stakeholders at national coordination platforms and analysis of current data available. However, District level and refugee’s consultation was limited, but it is anticipated in the roll out phase to localize the reference MEB to the different geographical areas. The guidance provides a set of tools to support operational partners to have a better understanding of women and men refugee’s point of view when quantifying unmet needs, their priorities and how they would like to be assisted, enabling households to decide how to prioritize their expenditures.
The harmonization guidance proposes a reference average value of UGX 72,321 per person per month to meet essential needs. This value should be used as a reference and by no means should be taken as a prescriptive value to apply without due diligence vulnerability and market assessments at settlement level and involvement of refugees in the process of program design6. The reference MEB, mainly, builds on a right based approach identifying what unmet basic needs are due to a lack of income and household resources. It combines an expenditure lens, ensuring that it is consistent with demand behaviour and aligned with the host population. The document brings sectoral expertise, fostering greater involvement of sector working groups in multipurpose cash grant interventions, along with other activities to best reach intended sectoral outcomes that can contribute to protection and self-reliance. The MEB value is a critical factor when determining transfer values; however, transfer values are closely reliant on of the capacity of the households to cater for their own essential needs with their own resources and abilities, other assistance received, market capacity and what the program aims to achieve. Evidence indicates that cash is not the only form of assistance needed. Support for protection and sector-specific programming will remain vital for the supply of quality services and goods to refugees and for the technical knowledge, training and behaviour change needed to achieve outcomes. Investment in livelihood opportunities can increase refugee’s capacity to meet more of their needs and preferences and reduce dependence on assistance.
Briefly, the document provides recommendations on how to monitor and update the MEB and which markets to explore. It is paramount to ensure accuracy and comprehensiveness of data collected by Sectors related to expenditures, priority items from refugees and local prices to inform Sector -specific cash transfer programming and MEB monitoring (work in progress). It suggests continuing generation of evidence and learnings from multipurpose cash grant implementation to cover basic needs and achieving a greater understanding of the multi-dimensional aspects of vulnerability at household and individual level, integrating an analysis of financial barriers and socio-economic factors in future targeting efforts.
Hence, it is recommended that an inclusive inter-agency effort is undertaken to define basic needs involving refugees; determine the degree to which basic needs are unmet; to outline population profiles describing different types and levels of needs; and explore avenues for aligning the provision of assistance to the level and type of need in households and individuals. “Access to income support and [incrementing purchasing power through cash and voucher assistance] should not be understood as incompatible with self-reliance”. There is significant experience and research showing that well-designed income support such as multipurpose cash grant (MPC) and market based solutions can boost livelihood programming9, unlocking refugee’s potential and increasing annual real income in the Ugandan economy. The benefit to the settlement economy generated by an additional refugee household is higher for cash than in-kind food assistance. Refugee and host-country households and businesses create income spill over effects when they spend their cash on goods and services that are supplied within the local economy.
There is much room for exploring social protection as an opportunity for an integrated approach in humanitarian cash and voucher assistance and supporting the development of key markets needed to support refugee and host community livelihoods over the coming years. Finally, it is suggested that the upcoming Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) makes clear recommendations and decisions about the provision of assistance through a basic needs lens, including the opportunities of the increased role of cash transfers in the response.