Backpacks of cash: How to make payments when all the options are bad

Two men deliver cash at a bank in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by: Axel Drainville / CC BY-NC

When the development sector responds to a crisis, one of the first logistical challenges they encounter is also among the trickiest ones: how to move money where it’s needed. There is no easy way to getting the often millions of dollars needed into remote localities with no formal banking, far-flung refugee camps, or active disaster zones.

The usual answer is cash. Yet while portable, dollars, pounds and euros come with a host of liabilities. Cash is bulky, requires heavy security and is the most easily siphoned. In one recent example, several major international NGOs, including the International Medical Corps and the International Relief Committee, are under investigation for involvement in the mismanagement and siphoning of funds during cross border relief from Turkey into Syria.

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About the author

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    Lisa Cornish

    Lisa Cornish is a Devex Reporter based in Canberra, where she focuses on the Australian aid community. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane, and online through news.com.au. Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.