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Good Practice Examples

Using ATMs to Provide Cash Grants

The largest project of UNHCR Syria, the Financial Assistance Programme provides cash grants to over 36,000 refugees to cover accommodation expenses. UNHCR has established a partnership with a private bank to issue ATM cards to refugees. Each month, UNHCR channels funds through the bank and informs refugees by SMS messages when they can withdraw funds. The ATM approach is an innovate response to the needs of urban refugees and is an effective means to handle a large-scale project.

Advantages of the ATM approach include that it is the most efficient and dignified method of dispersing cash to a large group of beneficiaries, it requires less logistics and overhead cost, it provides UNHCR more security and control of the process, and the service can be accessed even in areas without a UNHCR presence. The ATM approach has the strong support of the refugee community for its sense of normalcy and dignity and the ability to access assistance at their convenience. Positive protection impacts on family stability, school attendance, and psycho-social wellbeing have been seen.


Psychosocial Support in South Africa

Though national legislation provides refugees access to the public health care system in South Africa, mental health care is not given first priority in the overburdened system. Providers also do not typically conceptualize the specific issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers such as trauma, language and cultural difference, and barriers to access services. UNHCR and its implementing partners—Refugee Social Services in Durban, Jesuit Refugee Services in Johannesburg and Pretoria, Refugee Aid Organization in Pretoria and Catholic Welfare and Development in Cape Town—have developed Psychosocial Support networks to better provide direct psychosocial support to refugee and asylum seekers. The networks have provided direct material and legal assistance and mental health training for staff.

UNHCR also organized two workshops in 2009 targeting social workers involved in refugee and asylum seeker social assistance. The aim of both workshops was to make participants familiar with the particular psycho-social issues facing refugees and asylum seekers, the relevant counseling skills, self-care strategies, and relevant resources. Implementing partners report that psychosocial support for refugees and asylum seekers has increased and been incorporated into existing programs.