U.S. Embassy Kampala | October 30, 2020
STATEMENT FROM THE UNITED STATES EMBASSY ON TERMINATION OF COVID-19 DIRECT CASH TRANSFER PROGRAM IN UGANDA
Since the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has provided technical assistance and more than $47 million to help Uganda meet urgent needs in its COVID-19 response.
The United States’ COVID-related assistance includes approximately $10 million for a direct cash transfer program launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in August in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Kampala through the international non-profit, GiveDirectly. The goal of this program was to follow international precedent for economic stimulus by providing cash directly to individuals and families who need it most. Specifically, the program intended to support Ugandans who lost livelihoods as a result of COVID-19, who were at risk of food insecurity and faced serious reductions in household nutrition. The cash transfers were designed to support local markets by providing 120,000 Ugandans across six cities 100,000 UGX each month for three months. By September, 47,128 Ugandans were enrolled in the program.
USAID and GiveDirectly worked closely with government counterparts to successfully vet the program through the Cabinet and ultimately to launch the program publicly as part of the Lira City celebration in August. Despite the thorough assessment and approval by Cabinet, in September the NGO Bureau announced an additional review of GiveDirectly’s activities in Uganda, resulting in the program’s suspension.
GiveDirectly addressed the NGO Bureau’s questions, and no irregularities in the cash transfer program or GiveDirectly’s operations were identified. The program has still not been authorized to resume, and no assurances have been provided that authorization by the government is forthcoming. In light of this indefinite suspension, it is now unlikely that the program will meet its original objective, which was to prevent COVID related economic backsliding of the most vulnerable Ugandans. Therefore, we are obligated contractually to terminate the program permanently.
We are mindful that ordinary Ugandans continue to suffer from the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and that they could greatly benefit from this emergency cash assistance, which has been proven both internationally and within Uganda as a powerful development tool to transfer stabilizing economic relief to recipient communities. We deeply regret that the 120,000 Ugandans identified to participate in this program, along with their surrounding communities, will now not have the opportunity to benefit from it.
The United States is a strong and longstanding partner of Uganda and the country’s single largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance. While deeply disappointed by the reluctance of some elements within the government to support this highly effective cash transfer program, the United States remains committed to supporting the Ugandan people through this challenging time.