Humanitarian Aid and Refugee Self-Reliance

Last registered on December 20, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Humanitarian Aid and Refugee Self-Reliance
Initial registration date
November 24, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
November 30, 2022, 3:29 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
December 20, 2023, 9:31 AM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


Primary Investigator

Tilburg University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Tilburg University
PI Affiliation
Tilburg University

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
The number of refugees is rapidly increasing worldwide, and this trend is expected to continue. Humanitarian aid organisations increasingly use cash transfers to help recipients regain control of their lives. While a recent pilot program in Uganda documented that cash transfers improved refugees’ short-run quality of life, they did not encourage savings and investments, failing to strengthen refugees’ long-term self-reliance. This is consistent with the view that poverty is multifaceted, and that merely relaxing the financial constraint is not sufficient to escape poverty.

We collaborate with a humanitarian NGO to develop and test the effectiveness of innovative, low-cost, and scalable interventions aimed at increasing the impact of cash transfers on self-reliance, via a Randomized Controlled Trial among 861 refugee households (~5300 refugees) in Uganda.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Dalton, Patricio, Daan van Soest and Till Wicker. 2023. "Humanitarian Aid and Refugee Self-Reliance." AEA RCT Registry. December 20.
Sponsors & Partners



Experimental Details


All households in the study are recipients of a 6-month long cash transfer program. Households are divided across three treatments:
- Control (or "Cash Only"): Households receive the cash transfer ‘as is’, in one envelope.
- MA: Same as control; in addition, households are offered the opportunity to decide, at baseline, whether they would like to receive future monthly cash transfers in four labelled envelopes (labelled ‘education’, ‘health’, ‘investment’, and ‘other’), or one envelope (status quo). If they opt for the four labelled envelopes, the household is asked how they would like to divide the cash they receive across the four envelopes; all future cash will then be allocated accordingly.
- MAD: Identical to MA, except that households are shown a recommendation of the allocation across the four envelopes, developed by the Uganda Humanitarian Cash Working Group, if they opt for the four envelopes instead of one. Households can either accept this recommendation across the four labelled envelopes, or adjust it as they wish.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Self-Reliance, Poverty, household income (source and amount), children’s school performance and attendance, physical and mental health, savings and investment behavior, ability to respond to shocks, ability to allocate money based on stated preferences.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The midline (in 2023) will also focus on identifying the mechanisms through which our interventions influence primary outcomes, while the endline will only measure the primary outcomes. Survey data will be complemented with objective measures where possible (e.g. school attendance and performance reports from schools, and health outcomes).

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Bad habits, aspirations, remittances, preferences.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
We are also interested in heterogeneous treatment effects of the interventions based on baseline values of gender of the household head, vulnerability level of the household, self-control, and psychological indices (including depression and aspirations). While we were able to stratify on gender and vulnerability during the randomization process, we were unable to do so for self-control and the psychological indices as these were only measured at baseline (which was implemented after households had been allocated to one of the three treatment arms).

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Households are participants in a cash transfer programme by a humanitarian organization in North-Western Uganda. All households are entitled to receive a monthly cash transfer (UGX 30,000 per household member) for a period of 6 months. At baseline, all households had already received one instalment, and thus our interventions are with respect to the remaining five cash transfers. The households are randomized across three treatments.

The baseline survey will take place in September and October 2022, while the midline survey will take place in Spring 2023, upon completion of the cash transfers and intervention. An endline survey will take place one year after the midline, in Spring 2024.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Computerized stratified random assignment. Stratification variables: Zone of residence, year of arrival (median split), age of the household head (median split), his/her gender, country of origin, and the household’s vulnerability score.

Randomization was implemented before the baseline survey had been completed; households’ preferences regarding the allocation of the transfer over the four envelopes were elicited during the baseline survey itself. That means that we were unable to stratify on self-control scores and a psychological index, as these were only measured during the baseline survey.
Randomization Unit
Household level randomization
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
No clustering planned.
Sample size: planned number of observations
861 households
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
292 in Cash Only (= contro), 288 in the Mental Accounting (MA) treatment, 281 in the Mental Accounting + Default (MAD) treatment.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
0.235 standard deviations, for an 80% power at the 5% significance criterion. Assumptions: explanatory power of stratified variables of outcome variable: 20%; attrition rate: 20%, two-sided t-test. This is a very conservative estimate as the mean stay in the refugee camps is over 5 years, and hence attrition rates are expected to be much lower than 20%.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
TiSEM Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB FUL 2022-004
IRB Name
Mildmay Uganda Research Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials