Digital cash-transfer programme delivers fast disaster relief


Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to make landfall, hit the Philippines in November 2013, killing 5,600 and affecting more than 16 million people across nine provinces. Delivering aid to a large displaced population provided a tough challenge.

To provide emergency help, Oxfam and Visa teamed up to deliver a safe, secure and transparent monetary aid programme. As Visa’s project manager, Pearl Consulting acted as a bridge to integrate two very different worlds: the corporate world of Visa and the humanitarian focus of Oxfam.

mother and son walking through debris
Photo by Jerry Carreon/Oxfam

The solution

Oxfam and Visa with Pearl Consulting, together with other partners, developed an innovative digital cash transfer solution allowing affected communities to receive aid disbursements via a prepaid card, supported by an “ecosystem” in which the card could be used.

Steps to success

1. Create cross-sector partnerships to deliver effective programs

Throughout the project, the team built an ecosystem of partners and the infrastructure to facilitate the programme. National and local partners included the government, banks, the Philippine postal corporation, mobile network operators, processing technology providers, pay-out centres, local grocery stores and Visa-accepting establishments.

2. Leverage partnerships to empower and build resilient communities

Instead of using cash, the project enabled a more convenient way of delivering financial assistance without the risk. Moreover, with the prepaid cards, beneficiaries were able to choose which purchases of essential products they needed. The system therefore helped to empower communities by giving them the capacity to make their own financial decisions.

3. Develop program roadmap to realise scale and sustainability

The government, as a key stakeholder, benefited from the solution as its collaboration with humanitarian organisations and the private sector enabled the delivery of a scalable emergency intervention. In addition, Pearl Consulting worked with Oxfam to create a post-project evaluation that clearly documents the process, key lessons learned and benefits to partners and stakeholders, ensuring the work was scalable and sustainable.

Two men being registered to receive their prepaid card in Tacloban
Photo by Oxfam

The outcome

The result of this pilot programme was a safe, simple and efficient solution through which Oxfam distributed 2,700 prepaid cards, through which US$188,000 was transferred to beneficiaries in typhoon-affected communities. The programme met the partnership’s goals to increase efficiency in financial aid disbursement, speed up processing and distribution and reduce security risks.

In addition, there was a reported 100% utilisation of the prepaid cards by beneficiaries. This high use rate can be attributed to the series of social preparation and user education activities conducted by the team. Since its development, the platform has been deployed multiple times providing Oxfam with a new model for quickly disbursing monetary aid.

Pearl Consulting supported us in assessing the right financial inclusion framework, including payment-needs research, ecosystem infrastructure evaluation and defining training initiatives for financial education. They demonstrated a great understanding of the challenges involved, providing programme management leadership efforts that were professional, thought provoking, customer friendly and trustworthy in an environment of constant change.” Ihab Zaghloul, Head of Financial Inclusion Asia, Visa