GiveDirectly | COVID-19 Response


Remotely delivering cash support to the world’s most poor during the pandemic

The pandemic is hampering humanitarian systems that typically address major disasters, the ability to deliver aid in person has never been more complicated. GiveDirectly has developed a method to provide direct cash assistance to 300,000 people in need in Sub-Saharan Africa using mobile and satellite technologies.

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The COVID-19 pandemic could push more than 140 million people globally into extreme poverty and the very aid that the most vulnerable need has never been more complicated to deliver. Global and domestic travel restrictions have made it difficult and more expensive for global humanitarian organizations to get aid workers and supplies to the places most in need. Even at a local level, in-person services have been hampered by the health risks associated with programs that deliver goods and services. Many low-income communities are also grappling with job losses, and containment measures have limited options for people to earn an income. This has left many facing food insecurity and vulnerable populations at the highest risk of slipping deeper into poverty.

Big Idea

For over a decade, GiveDirectly has provided no-strings-attached cash transfers to the world’s most vulnerable. Now they are leveraging the growth in the adoption of mobile technologies across Sub-Saharan Africa to design and deploy a breakthrough, fully remote model of humanitarian relief in response to the COVID-19 crisis. With Audacious investment over the next 12 months, GiveDirectly will scale its current model to provide unconditional cash transfers to over 300,000 vulnerable people, helping families to address their immediate needs safely. GiveDirectly also aims to demonstrate the potential of data-informed crisis relief across different contexts and improve the scale and effectiveness of future humanitarian responses.


Across the next year, GiveDirectly will scale its current model, enrolling and identifying recipients without in-person contact in two ways: 1) partnering with community-based organizations to identify target beneficiaries within their existing networks and 2) leveraging data from national telephone companies to target those most in need at scale. Once target beneficiaries have been identified, they will be registered via cell phones or phone surveys, and cash dispersed to them via mobile money operators,  such as M-Pesa. GiveDirectly will also collect rigorous feedback and data, systematizing the underlying processes and algorithms so they can be deployed for future disasters, demonstrating a new model for rapid humanitarian relief.         

Why will this succeed?

The global scale of the COVID-19 pandemic requires a flexible solution, like cash aid, that accounts for each context, community, and individual's differing needs. GiveDirectly is the first—and largest—nonprofit exclusively dedicated to delivering cash aid directly to the world's poorest. Since 2009, GiveDirectly has delivered over $260 million directly into the hands of over 270,000 families living in poverty. Direct cash assistance is effective and provides the dignity of choice to recipients, enabling them to define their own needs. In more than 150 studies, direct cash aid shows positive outcomes across various indicators, including income, savings, psychological well-being, and food consumption.

Project Impact

Recent Updates

Nichole Sobecki for NPRNichole Sobecki for NPR


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Picture courtesy of GiveDirectlyPicture courtesy of GiveDirectly


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