A Syrian refugee signs documents after receiving a new debit bank card.
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Over the past several weeks, the Lebanon Cash Consortium – a group of international NGOs – and the UNHCR have begun rolling out a new, unified cash assistance program for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese host communities.Dubbed the Common Card Program, the new arrangement replaces previous systems in which different kinds of cash aid were provided via separate means.However, benefits of providing cash alternatives became clear and by mid-2014 many NGOs were operating some form of cash card system.This massive increase strained the abilities of UNHCR and NGOs to accommodate the ever-growing needs of the refugee community.While more research on the effects of cash over in-kind aid is needed, research conducted by UNHCR and other groups does demonstrate that cash assistance tends to improve the economy of local regions in which it is implemented.While the new single-card system is a relatively recent innovation – distribution began last week – both the LCC and UNHCR are hoping to rapidly expand the program.
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