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Remittances during crises: implication for humanitarian response

Remittances – migrants sending money home – are an important part of many people's lives around the world. In disasters, they can play a particularly important part in how people survive and recover because they represent a relatively stable form of income, usually increase in times of crisis and directly contribute to household income. However, humanitarian actors often fail to consider remittances in assessments and response design – a neglect that reflects a broader tendency to undervalue the capacities of crisis-affected populations.

This two year project, led by the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI, looked at the role that remittances play in crises. The project worked closely with other agencies and research institutions including the Feinstein International Famine Center and the Institute for the Study of International Migration. HPG is also a member of the Research Consortium on Remittances in Conflict and Crises that was formed in 2005 to further both collective and individual research on remittances that will constructively inform policy.

The study concludes that, while remittances should not be seen as a panacea or substitute for humanitarian action, there is clear potential for humanitarian actors to do more to explore the complementarities between emergency relief and people's own efforts to support friends and family in times of crisis. For this reason, the design of assistance programmes should be done in ways that complement and enhance remittance flows. This means flexible assistance programming, which enables people to combine their own resources and capacities with the resources provided through relief.


Kevin Savage