Vanuatu is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, with over 64% of the population exposed to natural hazards annually. Geographic distance between and remoteness of Vanuatu’s communities, along with weak infrastructures and transportation methods, makes dispersing aid difficult and slow, with the average time to receive aid prior to 2020 being at least four weeks. In 2019, Oxfam partnered with fintech company Sempo and blockchain company Consensys to pilot a blockchain-powered cash transfer solution to improve aid delivery in Vanuatu. As of 2022, there are over 1,000 participants and vendors enrolled in the program in Vanuatu and an estimated $2 million USD in aid has been distributed across the Pacific region. The case study aims to better understand the Unblocked Cash Project, a cash and voucher humanitarian assistance program in Vanuatu.
Hard to Reach
The large unbanked and isolated Ni-Vanuatu population in need of humanitarian aid in Vanuatu.
The success of the project lies in the innate cultural resilience of the Indigenous population that is rooted in community values of sharing and receiving. This includes:
- Decolonizing aid and sustainability
- In postdisaster recovery, different NGOs, civil society actors, and private sector entities must work under the coordination
- Having people on the team who understand and are the voice of the communities where the intervention is being implemented
- Adopting a blockchain-based solution has incrementally improved the process of resource distribution from the perspective of implementors. The transparency it provides makes it preferable to aid distributers compared to cash transfers since it is more reliable and can be easily tracked.
We are grateful to every community organization, stakeholder, service provider, and interviewee who offered their valuable contributions for this case study. We are particularly appreciative of those we had the pleasure of meeting during our time in Port Vila, including Oxfam Vanuatu, the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council, and the Vanuatu Red Cross Society. Their assistance throughout the data collection process and commitment to inclusive humanitarian aid distribution was central to our case study.
This research was conducted at the University of Toronto, on the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Missisaugas of the Credit, and we are grateful for the opportunity to work on this land. Our research focuses on the disaster recovery of Ni-Vanuatu in Vanuatu, and we wish to acknowledge the many Indigenous Ni-Vanuatu we spoke to throughout the research process, whose insights and experience on innovative and inclusive disaster relief were central to our findings. We hope that our research highlights the innate resilience of Vanuatu’s Indigenous population and contributes to further research that recognizes the importance of dignity, autonomy, and self-determination during humanitarian response.