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Cash transfer success in Colombia floods

Start Fund and Mercy Corps respond to crisis with cash programming

News Article

In early April, Mocoa city in the south west of Colombia, was hit with one of the worst natural disasters the country has seen in its history. Heavy rains had resulted in a mudslide that swept through the city and left 333 dead and hundreds missing.  The destruction caused by the floods left 22,310 people affected.

The Start Fund was alerted to the crisis and within two days a local project selection committee met in Bogotá and agreed to fund a lifesaving rapid response project implemented by Mercy Corps. The response was targeted to help those who were the most vulnerable via a cash transfer program. The cash transfer program was selected as a response for this crisis as there many local markets that were still functioning after the mudslide.

A survey was carried out with the participation of various NGOs who were involved, which identified vulnerable people by using the following criteria:

  • Families who had not received aid
  • Families who had totally lost their homes and possessions
  • Families whose livelihood was destroyed
  • Vulnerable individuals including people with disabilities, pregnant women, children/babies, the elderly and other groups


The cash was transferred to the people who were identified as vulnerable. They used the money to purchase essentials that they needed, such as clothes, food, drinking water, clothes and sanitary products. People were able to prioritise what they needed to buy and when they needed it and did so according to their own situations.

Transferring cash to affected people was also seen as an effective way to reduce the emotional impact of the mudslide as they purchased essentials on their own terms -  it helped them reaffirm a sense of control and dignity over their lives after the loss they had suffered in the mudslide.

The Start Fund proved to be an effective humanitarian response mechanism which, because of its speed, minimised human suffering in the aftermath of this crisis.

The Start Fund provides rapid financing to underfunded small to medium scale crises, spikes in chronic humanitarian crises, and to act in anticipation of impending crises, filling a critical gap in humanitarian financing.

Read more about the Start Fund

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  • by Amrina Rana