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GiveDirectly — Impact Brief


The international humanitarian sector is seeking out more efficacious and efficient ways of managing the $3.4 billion in annual spending on refugee aid which tends to be makeshift and in-kind in nature. Though the expectation is that refugees are displaced for a short duration, refugees are increasingly living in refugee camps and settlements for prolonged periods. Of the 25 million refugees today, about two-thirds have been displaced from their home country for five consecutive years or more, and it is estimated that more than 80% of refugee crises last for ten years or more.[1] Larger lump-sum cash transfers offer the possibility of transitioning refugee assistance towards creation of sustainable livelihoods.

GiveDirectly’s innovation is to deliver large, lump-sum, unconditional cash transfers to long-term refugees to enable them to rebuild their lives in their new, adopted homes. Cash transfers are also provided to people living in host communities, who are living in poverty and are often excluded for services provided to refugees.  GiveDirectly’s project in Uganda’s Kiryandongo settlement builds on an operational pilot in 2017 and will rigorously test the impact of this solution through a randomized controlled trial. In 2019, GIF contributed a $2.1M grant toward this project, which aims to fill an evidence gap for large, lump-sum cash transfers in protracted refugee settings while simultaneously providing over 9000 recipients with transfers to facilitate their sustainable integration into host communities. The evidence generated by the study may help influence stakeholders in the humanitarian sector to shift toward more efficient and efficacious cash approaches as part of their refugee assistance programmes.

Use of GIF Funds

GIF funding of $2.1 million is allocated to the following cost categories:

  • Direct cash transfers and the costs of facilitating transfer
  • Operational costs including personnel, software, equipment, travel etc.
  • Communications and dissemination activities


Deliver large, lump sum cash transfers to improve the lives of refugees and host nationals, conduct a randomized control trial to demonstrate success in a refugee context and use the findings to advocate for wider adoption as a potentially more efficient and effective refugee aid model.

  1. Increase effectiveness of humanitarian aid by adding to the evidence base, providing a de-risked implementation model, and supporting advocacy
  2. Deliver large, unconditional cash transfers efficiently and impactfully to help improve the lives of refugees and host nationals
  3. Deliver a robust external impact evaluation, comprised of a randomised control trial and qualitative research, on the lives of refugees and host nationals in order to fill an existing evidence gap and inform future decision-making about cash programs by donors and implementing organisations
  4. Disseminate learnings and findings from evidence generated using strategic communications and advocacy, conditional on the efficacy of the intervention, to influence practitioners, policy makers and donors in the humanitarian sector to shift towards a more efficient and effective (in terms of enabling the creation of sustainable livelihoods) cash transfer approach.

Impact to Date

To date, Give Directly has provided unrestricted cash transfers to over 4,800 households living in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement via a mobile money payments platform. Over half of these beneficiary households are comprised of refugee households and the remaining are host households. The research study is ongoing.


[1] Crawford et al (2015), “Protracted displacement: Uncertain paths to self-reliance in exile,” ODI