Results of Grameen Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program

Posted on 12/10/2020

We are committed to empowering the poor, especially women, to lift themselves out of poverty. While we have continued our work in that area, we also realized earlier this year that poor people were facing much steeper obstacles to a better future due to the pandemic.

This spring and summer, Grameen Foundation pivoted to launch a COVID-19 Emergency Cash Relief program, in response to the millions of people who suddenly plunged into extreme poverty due to pandemic lockdowns.

We worked with several local organizations in Uganda, India, and the Philippines to identify participants, distribute mobile money payments, and provide local Community Agents with the means to safely connect participants with their accounts to receive the funds.

Overview of Results

During the course of the COVID-19 Emergency Cash Relief program:

  • More than 1,000 participants in India, the Philippines, and refugee settlements in Uganda received emergency relief.
  • In total, taking into account participants’ average household size, the program benefited more than 4,900 people living in extreme poverty.
  • Relief was provided using digital, no-contact solutions to comply with local lockdowns. Community Agents are considered frontline workers in their countries, and helped participants receive their payments.

Here’s a breakdown of the results for the three locations.


In India, day laborers and artisans, among other informal sector workers, were devastated by the strict lockdowns imposed by the government. Grameen Foundation India and Grameen Mittras took the lead, delivering emergency relief access to these hard-hit populations, and also provided beneficiaries with financial literacy activities and health tips.

From April to June, 197 participants received cash relief to support their households, for a total of 591 beneficiaries. About two-thirds of the participants used the funds for basic needs, and another third used the money to restart or support their businesses.

Rajiya, a day laborer in Nawada, Bihar, told us, “We are daily wage laborers. Because of the virus, we are all at home unable to earn money. We are very grateful we were offered some help.”


Grameen Foundation, SECDEP, and Yakap at Halik joined forces to provide emergency relief in six different locations in the Philippines. Participants received the equivalent of $100 USD, as well as text messages with information on safe behavior, health advice, and financial tips.

The 180 participants were overwhelmingly women, who provided for an average household size of seven for a total of 1,260 beneficiaries. Other than basic needs such as food and medicine for their families, the participants spent their cash on their businesses, such as supplies for a sari-sari store, home repairs, and future needs.

“I’m very happy for being selected,” said Estrella, who lives in Quezon. “I bought food, especially rice, then used the cash transfer to stock up on my e-load business. The big difference that the cash transfer made was that I was able to use it for business, unlike relief goods.”

Hear from Jenny, one of our Community Agents in the Philippines about life during the lockdowns


In Uganda, World Food Program food assistance has been cut by 30% due to funding shortfalls, and lockdowns have effectively shut down 90% of aid support to refugee settlements. Grameen Foundation partnered with the Rural Finance Initiative (RUFI), GSMA, MTN, and Beyonic Limited to launch this program over the course of three months. We focused on the most vulnerable people in the Bidi Bidi and Palorinya refugee settlements.

During the three-month period, 679 participants received the equivalent of $38 USD, which they used for food, medicine, and future investments in micro-businesses. With an average household size of 4.5, there were a total of 3,055 beneficiaries.

“Before receiving the money, life was not going on well in my family. There was sickness, and poor food diet. As soon as I withdrew the funds, I got treatment for my family members. I also bought some food. I started a liquid soap business,” said Stephen, one of the participants in Bidi Bidi. “The most important thing I would like to share with you is to congratulate you on your work and to acknowledge Grameen in trying to help people like me.”

Many of our recipients were able to survive lockdowns thanks to these payments. One recipient called it “an answer to a prayer.” While the pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, we find some comfort and hope that for the world’s most vulnerable, this initiative has made their lives a little less difficult.

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