FY 16: Understanding Stakeholders' Interpretations and Use of Voucher-Based Refugee Relief Assistance (University of Notre Dame)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
October 7, 2016


Various nations in Africa and the Middle East have experienced widespread unrest, civil wars, and political instability over past four decades, resulting in millions of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). These large-scale movements usually strain host community economies and often lead to rampant and chronic food insecurity among refugees and IDPs. As relief agencies have acknowledged that traditionally-provided direct food aid is unsustainable in protracted relief, they have turned to more effective alternatives such as vouchers and cash to address the various needs of IDPs and refugees. However, various studies suggest that vouchers issued to refugees or IDPs, including e-vouchers are often ‘diverted,’ i.e. used in ways that are unintended or unauthorized by the relief agencies, and subsequently discouraged, prohibited, and/or criminalized. The lack of access to data on the daily behaviors and covert practices renders mainstream monitoring and evaluation efforts, including the measurement of the extent of diversion, difficult if not impossible. Given the worldwide push for e-vouchers underscores a crucial need for PRM and other agencies in relief situations to better understand conditions that contribute to the emergence and extent of voucher diversion, so as to enhance voucher effectiveness. This project will use ethnographic methods to elicit data that will enable the measurement of diversion in refugee and IDP camps in Kenya, Bangladesh and Egypt.


  • Conduct a literature review on e-voucher programs
  • Gather data through ethnography and survey on how stakeholders negotiate the use of vouchers with respect to their own needs and in concert with local realities
  • Conduct research to understand complexities of voucher diversion and develop a tool kit to measure the extent of voucher diversion
  • Coordinate with relief organizations to inform programs and policies based on research findings
  • Broadly disseminate findings using cutting edge media platforms and publications to inform programs and policies
  • The created Voucher Diversion Risk Tool will be able to be used in replication to aid in assessing voucher programs in other contexts, which can be broadly disseminated to interested organizations donors, and stakeholders, apropos our third objective.
  • The project is expected to be completed in August 2017.