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Response team begins distributing cash vouchers

Pakistan, May 22, 2009

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Today our team in Mardan began distributing cash vouchers to families affected by the violence in Pakistan. The vouchers are redeemable for a $45 check that can be cashed at numerous local banks. Over the next four months, Mercy Corps will deliver vouchers to 20,000 affected families.

We chose to do cash transfers to help affected families get what they need quickly and respond to their wide-ranging and disparate needs.

Of the initial 1,300 families, 300 are what we call "host" families — those sheltering the displaced. Estimates are that 75 to 80 percent of the displaced are living in existing communities rather than tent camps, which is placing severe strain on host communities.

Based on our assessments, we anticipate host families spending the money on bedding (mattresses, sheets and pillows) and kitchen items (plates, cups, cooking pans) to help accommodate the large numbers of additional people living in their home. Most of the families fleeing the violence left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

This program is essentially a pilot for a wider distribution — officially approved today by the U.S. Office of Disaster Assistance — to a total of 20,000 families in the area.