With the successful implementation of the Oxfam Unblocked Cash Transfer program in Sanma and Tafea provinces, Oxfam is now focusing on rolling out implementation for Shefa Province. With the support of Oxfam’s partners including the Vanuatu Society of People Living with Disability (VSPD) and the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council (VBRC), as well as Save the Children, Vanuatu Red Cross and Vanuatu Christian Council are working hand in hand to extend this program to Efate and off shore islands has now begun. This program provides assistance to those most in need as a result of the combined effects of COVID, volcanic ashfall (in Tafea) and TC Harold and the resulting impact people’s livelihoods which created hardship in many areas of Vanuatu.
For the Shefa program, given the limited funds available, Oxfam is providing humanitarian assistance to the most affected and vulnerable groups. In any time, it has been identified that people living with disability are especially vulnerable and as such they are the only beneficiaries for this program in Shefa. The Vanuatu Society of People Living with Disability (VSPD) along with Shefa Provincial Council are in the process of identifying the individuals living with disabilities who will become the beneficiaries and receive a special tap and pay card with credit on it through the Oxfam program. This enables the beneficiaries and their families to decide what they need and wish to purchase and restores dignity and choice to the beneficiaries, across a network of local shops and vendors.
One of the unique aspects of the Unblocked Cash Program is that by delivering support in terms of cash via a card payment system instead of more traditional aid which is often goods, this new approach supports local businesses in communities in allowing them to deliver services to the people. This in turn means the money stays in the local economy.
VSPD has conducting a need assessments to identify household needs along with the updated data for people with disabilities in the area around Port Vila and offshore islands. VBRC in partnership with Oxfam is assisting to identify retail shops, hardware shops, pharmacies and local fresh food market vendors to be the service provider to the program participants; these service providers are selected, contracted, and then become the Vendors. Vendors are reimbursed weekly by Oxfam for the goods they sell to beneficiaries redeeming their cards.
The Shefa program is scheduled to operate for 3 months commencing in Mid-February to end of April. It will provide stimulus to the economy which will assist the families in need, and also support businesses in the provinces during this crisis. The programme has also demonstrated a market multiplier effect – every 1vt spent generates at least 3.5vt (3.5x) in market activity through the program.
The successful business owners that will be identified by VBRC will be the first on Efate to drive the system which is a new mode of payment through blockchain and mobile phone technology. Beneficiaries simply tap their card against a vendor phone to complete payment, with categories of purchase and expenditure amounts tracked in real time. This will be an exciting opportunity for these vendors as the program extends to the grassroots which in turn upgrades their skills to another level of using digital technology.
The program also encourages women business owners around Efate and offshore islands as this program strongly encourages involvement of women and support of their business skills. This will be a challenging experience for these women especially market vendors but a good opportunity for them to participate and learn a new method of doing business. This will in turn give them confidence and build their skills in financial literature which will be a good example to other market vendors.
Oxfam would like to acknowledge the generous funding support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their support of this program.