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.