Research on Food Assistance for Nutritional Impact: Literature review

REFANI is a 3-year research project funded by the Department of International Development (DFID/UKAID) of the United Kingdom. 

The project aims to strengthen the evidence base on the nutritional impact and cost-effectiveness of food assistance programmes, as well as identify the mechanisms through which this effectiveness is achieved. 

The REFANI literature review identifies existing evidence on the use of Cash Transfer Programmes (CTPs) and the impact of CTPs on acute malnutrition in humanitarian contexts. The review is structured as follows: Section A discusses the global burden of acute malnutrition; Section B highlights traditional food-based interventions; Section C explores cash-based interventions and the emergence of CTPs within humanitarian programmes; and finally, the existing evidence from CTP interventions is explored in Section D.

Importantly, the REFANI literature review identifies key gaps that remain in our collective knowledge base. In particular, the review finds that, although complicated given that the impact pathways of CTPs are numerous and context-specific, a greater understanding of how (i.e. the mechanisms through which) these transfers work is necessary. More evidence is also needed on a range of CTP design features (e.g. timing, duration, amount and frequency), modalities (e.g. cash or vouchers), and recipient targeting criteria. Finally, very little is known about the sustainability of such programmes and their cost-effectiveness, especially over the course of the post-intervention period.

The REFANI literature review lays the groundwork for REFANI’s Global Research Framework (including the research project’s overarching research questions and theory of change; publication forthcoming).

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