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Are methodologies for analysing the food and economic situation of households appropriate in urban environments?
Caroline BROUDIC, june 2012

The experiences of cash transfer programmes following the earthquake of 12 January 2010 have been widely documented. Due to the scale of the response, the urban context and certain innovative practices, it was appropriate to take a step back to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of these operations. This article looks at what seems to have been insufficiently taken into account in the post-earthquake period, namely the analysis of food and non-food markets and studies of the job market.

Cash transfer programmes (distributions of money or coupons) which were instigated after the earthquake generally had two objectives: i) to improve access to essential products for victims of the earthquake by improving their purchasing power, and ii) to stimulate the local economy via local trade. The observation that markets were operational and that the main problem was more linked to the loss of income rapidly led to the decision to strengthen the purchasing capacity of Haitian households rather than to organize in-kind distributions. At the end of March 2010, the WFP’s general food distributions were stopped and replaced by large-scale cash-based programmes. However, despite the existence of a certain number of coordination systems which focus on this type of approach (the CaLP [1] and the clusters), there was very little in the way of analysis of markets or evaluation of the effects of these programmes, at the global level at least. Market monitoring systems were put in place locally by the organizations involved in cash transfer activities, but without offering an overall picture of the situation. There has also been very little study of the urban household economy in the metropolitan region over the last two years. It is therefore currently difficult to fully grasp the issues involved in relation to households’ ability to afford their domestic expenses (food, water, rent, health, education…) and particularly the forces which allow them to move out of insecurity. There has not been sufficient analysis of the unskilled job market in the metropolitan region, which results in a lack of knowledge about factors of socio-economic vulnerability and leads to support which is often more orientated towards self-employment than entrepreneurship.

[1] Cash Learning Partnership