Respond to COVID-19 in Africa

Support vulnerable families economically impacted by COVID-19

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We’re delivering emergency cash relief for COVID-19.

As governments impose lockdowns to limit the spread of COVID-19, many families are suddenly unable to continue earning a living. Few have the financial resources to cope with this crisis. For example, in Mathare, an urban slum in Nairobi, 95% say they are eating less due to COVID-19.

This is the time for direct giving — it’s fast, it’s efficient, and it allows each individual to pursue their own specific needs. And most importantly, it provides the dignity of choice and respect.

Our 4-step payment process is now fully contactless.

After 10 years of delivering digital cash we took all of our operations remote in 29 days. We replaced all in-person interactions with new remote protocols for targeting, identity verification, and follow-up.

1. Target

To find recipients fast, we’re partnering with community-based organizations, health providers, governments, and cell network carriers to identify vulnerable populations in need –– people hard hit by COVID-19 who were living in extreme poverty before the crisis.

2. Enroll

Before COVID-19 we hosted community barazas (village meetings) and then went door-to-door to enroll recipients. Today, we have moved to a 100% contactless enrollment model, with our remote call center staff conducting enrollment surveys via phone calls or text messages.

3. Pay

We use mobile money to send transfers that cover recipients’ basic needs for two to six months, depending on the country and program. Recipients receive a text message alert when the funds have arrived on their phone.

4. Follow-up & audit

We call each recipient to verify receipt of funds and evaluate recipients’ experience with our program. In addition, our internal audit team follows up with a subset of recipients to identify and investigate potential fraud.

Operations are live in 2 countries, with 5 more to come.

  • Kenya
  • Uganda
  • Upcoming
Kenya – supporting people in urban slums

We’re sending cash to families living in the Mathare, Kibera, and other informal settlements within Nairobi.

    • Urban slums are already seeing the impacts of COVID-19. In a recent survey of GiveDirectly recipients, 97% of recipients said they have lost income due to COVID-19.
    • Via the non-profit SHOFCO, we’re able to reach 20k+ young people living in Mathare and Kibera. We are working with other local orgs to rapidly increase the number of households we can reach.
    • Each household will receive three monthly $30 payments. We verify each recipients’ identity, obtain consent, and send three monthly $30 payments to their digital MPesa wallets – all 100% remotely.
    • First payments went out on April 15, 2020. We are currently working to reach 50k+ new individuals over the next two months.
Uganda – targeting people using cell network data

In partnership with the Government of Uganda (GoU), Uganda’s largest telecom companies, and local community-based organizations (CBOs), we’re paying high-vulnerability Ugandans throughout the country.

    • We’re using cell phone data and other contactless methods to target vulnerable families. This allows us to get cash to recipients rapidly, securely, and at significant scale.
    • Each household will receive $60–75 USD in total, spread over 1–3 payments. The transfer size (100-240k Ugandan Shillings) is based on analysis of household consumption and minimum expenditure needs, and we may update this as the crisis evolves.
    • First payments went out to recipients on April 27, 2020. In the coming months we plan to scale to over 100k+ Ugandans.
Coming soon: 5 more countries

We’re working quickly to expand operations to other countries. Check this page soon for more details on coming project launches.

Frequently asked questions


+Is my donation tax-deductible?

Yes, donations are tax-deductible in the United States. GiveDirectly is a registered 501(c)(3), and our U.S. federal EIN is 27-1661997.

+I’m an existing GiveDirectly donor – will my donations go to COVID-19?

If you’ve donated to our “Any cash transfers Africa” fund, we’ll allocate your donation wherever it’s needed most within our Africa programs. Today, that means your donation may help families impacted by COVID-19 in Africa.

Donations with specific allocations (refugees, basic income) will continue to be reserved for those programs. Neither “COVID-19 – Africa response” or “Any cash transfers Africa” donations will go to our U.S. response.

+How much of my donation does a recipient receive?

In 2019, on average across all of our programs, 85 cents of every dollar donated was delivered to recipients. The remainder was spent on key aspects of our operations: identifying the recipients most in need, preventing fraud, and ensuring a high bar of customer service.

+How do I know recipients will spend cash appropriately?

The research is clear: households living in poverty are some of the most effective spenders around. Despite the stereotypes, recipients of cash do not systematically waste or misuse it. Common concerns that people will spend money on vices have been consistently disproven (Evans and Popova, 2016).

+Can I sign up to be a recipient?

Unfortunately no, GiveDirectly is not able to respond to individual requests for cash transfers. In order to ensure fairness and equity in our processes, we only select recipients using our eligibility process detailed above.


+How do you decide who receives money?

Our top priority right now is moving quickly to get cash to vulnerable families. To start, we plan to target families in urban areas, where we expect the economic effects of COVID-19 to hit hardest and fastest.

To find recipients fast, we’re partnering with community-based organizations, health providers, governments, and cell network carriers to identify vulnerable populations in need.

+Can I choose to whom to give?

No; you cannot choose an individual recipient. Practically speaking, if we allowed this we would risk being regulated as a money transfer service and losing our charitable status. Philosophically, we aim to target the poorest possible recipients in high impact areas of COVID-19, and not those with compelling profiles or narratives.

+How do you prevent fraud?

We use a mix of prevention, detection, and auditing techniques to manage fraud. These include, for example, defined staff roles, spot checks of data captured in the field, remote GPS coordinate checks, and independent follow-up calls with recipients, among others. We use government-issued IDs and other documents to confirm the recipients’ place of residence.

+Are you directly implementing the program?

Yes — as we work to target particularly vulnerable recipients impacted by COVID-19, we will occasionally work with partners (like SHOFCO) to reach recipients more rapidly. We will continue to own the end-to-end implementation process.

As we scale, we will use a combination of (a) our own existing databases of low-income households, (b) rosters provided by local NGO partners whom we have vetted, and (c) rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through our partner mobile network operators. Specific approaches will vary across countries.

+Who is SHOFCO?

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls.