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More than emergency relief is needed following conflicts, earthquakes, and other crises.

A CARE VSLA in Emergencies group in Yemen

A CARE VSLA in Emergencies group in Yemen

CARE develops long-term plans for communities

Atlanta (December 19, 2023) According to a new UN report, nearly 300 million people around the world will need humanitarian assistance in 2024 – that’s one in every 23 people. Millions of these individuals were driven to the brink over these last 12 months in places like Afghanistan, Gaza, Sudan, and Morocco where lives have been upended by war, earthquakes, and climate disasters. While CARE and their local partners are delivering lifesaving emergency assistance to the most vulnerable – especially women and girls – they are also seeking out new ways to build longer-term stability for communities in the midst of these dire contexts. One way CARE is doing this is by adapting its flagship Village Savings & Loan Association (VSLA) program to emergency situations, the success of which is shown in a recent report from CARE, Building Capital in Crisis.

“The humanitarian community traditionally focuses on meeting urgent needs – including medicine, food, water, and shelter,” explained Vidhya Sriram, Global Director of CARE’s Village Savings & Loan Associations. “While this assistance saves lives, people in emergencies also need interventions which address their longer-term vulnerabilities that are tailored to their current needs. That’s what our VSLA in Emergencies approach aims to do.”

VSLAs are self-managed groups, primarily made up of poor, rural women. Groups meet regularly to save money, access small loans, and obtain emergency insurance. Beyond saving and lending, VSLAs are improving gender equity, increasing the economic prosperity of entire communities, improving access to education, heightening women’s decision-making power and much more. VSLA groups are resilient and resourceful, often leading local response to emerging emergencies.

The premise of the VSLA in Emergencies model is to combine emergency cash assistance with CARE’s VSLA programming. This model aims to support people living in crisis to address and recover from shocks, as well as support them to build more resilient livelihoods. CARE knows that in a crisis context, combining cash assistance with VSLA membership contributes to an average additional 30-35% increase in food security, 70-85% increase in incomes, and a twelve-fold increase in savings.

VSLA in Emergencies was first piloted in Yemen in 2021, years into the suffering this war has inflicted on Yemenis. CARE specifically chose this complex and ongoing emergency to test out this approach, with promising results. Afollow up with the VSLA in Emergencies groups a year after supporting their formation shows that most are now running independently and effectively, showing significant sustainability and resilience, as shown in the report Building Capital in Crisis. The groups are still saving at almost the same level as before, despite the economic turmoil and no additional cash assistance. There have also been some clear improvements in food consumption scores.

Rabyah from near Taiz in Yemen is widowed with ten children, she joined a VSLA in Emergencies group from which she took out a loan to buy a sewing machine to start her own business. She explained: “After I lost my husband, I became responsible for providing essentials for my family. The VSLA group supported us to achieve our dreams. Before we had no idea about saving, marketing, or sewing skills. Thanks to the training, we gained these skills. I hope to continue selling clothes to meet the needs of my family. Finally, our life got better.”

The VSLA in Emergencies model has also seen success in Northwest Syria where the amount of VSLA members with acceptable levels of food security, measured by the Food Consumption Score, rose from 30% to 96%.

“For many of us, our savings are a cushion that we tap into when our car breaks down or as we leave a bad marriage. But for the millions of people globally in CARE’s VSLAs, being in a savings group means you can actively prepare for the next crisis, whether that’s manmade or a natural disaster,” said CARE’s Vidhya Sriram. “You build a network of supporters with whom you’ll weather that crisis. In Yemen, Syria, and Jordan, we’ve seen VSLA members saving a small portion of their cash assistance allowing them to dream again about a life they once had and could finally look forward to rebuilding. We are calling on peers and funders in the humanitarian sector to join forces with us to adopt this impactful model.”

About CARE

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls. Equipped with the proper resources, women and girls have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. This year, CARE and partners worked in 111 countries implementing 1,600 poverty-fighting development and humanitarian aid projects and initiatives that reached 174,000,000 people. To learn more, visit www.care.org

For media inquiries, please contact: Ashley.Shackleford@care.org

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