Humanitarian cash transfers changing the lives of persons with disabilities affected by emergencies

Resource Type

Transforming Crisis into Opportunity

This article was originally posted on UNICEF Ethiopia, by Diana Hodulikova & Kristel Juriloo, on July 4, 2023


With funding from SIDA, FCDO, and CERF, unconditional shock responsive cash transfer top-ups reached over 2500 households with persons with disabilities in Amhara and Somali, Ethiopia.

The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia has been significantly impacted by various shocks, including climate change such as droughts and floods, conflict, as well as socio-economic challenges due to rising inflation and decline in services. Among those disproportionately affected are persons with disabilities, particularly children. These children face amplified barriers and the discontinuation of crucial services like rehabilitation. Furthermore, the existing humanitarian response often fails to address the needs and additional expenses faced by persons with disabilities. "When I was displaced to Debark because of the conflict, I lost everything. I was left alone with my children. Escaping with my son, who has a physical disability, was incredibly challenging,” said a mother who fled in the conflict in Addi Arkay

Moreover, due to the lack of support services, many caregivers with disabilities rely on their children, often their daughters, to assist with household chores like fetching water and firewood. "I wish I could send my daughter to school, but I have no one to help me," expressed a woman with a disability in an IDP camp. During our interactions, we also encountered malnourished children with disabilities and women with disabilities who were not permitted to cook alongside those without disabilities.

In collaboration with the Amhara Bureau of Women, Children, and Social Affairs (BoWCSA), UNICEF is implementing humanitarian cash transfers for conflict-affected communities, internally displaced people (IDPs), and returnees in the Amhara region. Eleven woredas (districts) (Debre Birhan, Harbu Haik, Tehulederie, Tsagbji, Abergelie, Sekota Zuria, Kobo town, Raya Kobo, Dega Damot, Adi Arakay) were selected by UNICEF to pilot a one-time cash transfer top-up of ETB 1,125 for eligible households with at least one person with a disability. Over 1800 households were identified in these eleven woredas. Data collectors were provided with an orientation on how to identify and register households with persons with disabilities, utilizing the Washington Group Short Set of questions on functioning. The cash transfers are unconditional and provide support to affected families, enabling them to decide how best to meet their immediate needs. Helen, a young mother, shared her experience: "Thanks to the combination of shock-responsive cash transfer, disability top-up, and dignity kit (totalling ETB 12,225), I was able to pay off my debts, buy enough food, start my own business, and purchase shoes for my children with walking disabilities."

The success of the humanitarian cash transfers has led to their replication in drought and cholera-affected communities in the Somali region, with improvements incorporated. Cash transfers were provided to over 717 individuals with disabilities, granting each person ETB 2,150 during the distribution in early April 2023. In addition to cash transfers, UNICEF is consistently delivering multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to communities, encompassing water and sanitation, nutrition, health, education, and child protection services.

Key Area
humanitarian response


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