Case Study

How UNHCR Distributes Cash Assistance Through Stellar Aid Assist


Humanitarian Aid


Switzerland (HQ), Ukraine

On and off-ramps



The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations agency mandated to aid and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

UNHCR protects people forced to flee their homes because of war, conflict and persecution. The agency works in over 130 countries, protecting millions of people by responding with life-saving support, safeguarding fundamental human rights, and helping them recover and build a better future.


Aid Disbursement

Across the world, there are more than 100 million displaced people, the largest number of forcibly displaced persons in history. To best meet the need for assistance, which is increasing in both size and complexity, humanitarian aid organizations constantly look to innovative solutions so that they are able to: 1) deliver assistance faster and 2) provide people with a range of options for receiving aid, as programs need to be designed with the people they serve at the center.

UNHCR is especially committed to further expanding the provision of cash, the normally preferred assistance modality by people forcibly displaced. Enhancing cash provision is a key priority for the agency, as it gives recipients the freedom and dignity to themselves decide how to prioritize the assistance given, based on their personal need.

SDF, together with UNHCR, is realizing the promise of blockchain and pioneering a new future for the delivery of billions of dollars in aid disbursed annually. Using Stellar, we are helping get funds into the hands of those who need them – and doing it quickly, transparently, and without the need for bank accounts or credit or debit cards. We are proud to work with UNHCR to deploy blockchain innovations that will play a role in assisting those in crisis.

Denelle Dixon, CEO and Executive Director of the Stellar Development Foundation


Cash assistance delivered directly

UNHCR, in collaboration with United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC), the UN’s technology solutions provider, are amongst the first to pilot the new Stellar-based aid disbursement solution, Stellar Aid Assist. Stellar Aid Assist ensures the delivery of cash assistance directly into the hands of those being assisted quickly, efficiently, and securely with full value transfer traceability and accountability.

This solution has the potential to lay the groundwork for future financial innovation for cash assistance and donation programs, with the opportunity to grow a global ecosystem of digital wallets and cash on and off-ramps serving different contexts and geographies.

Instant bulk disbursements

Instant bulk disbursements

  • Stellar Aid Assist leverages the Stellar Disbursement Platform (SDP), a bulk disbursement tool that enables organizations to distribute funds to recipients and monitor the disbursement of those funds on the Stellar blockchain.
  • Using Stellar Aid Assist, UNHCR is able to deliver aid instantly in the form of USDC, a fully-reserved digital dollar stablecoin backed by cash, repo, and short-dated US Treasuries, on the low-fee and efficient Stellar network.
Cash in the hands of those who need it, how and when they need it

Cash in the hands of those who need it, how and when they need it

  • Stellar also possesses expansive geographic and physical reach, supporting cash out locations globally (~150 countries) in multiple currencies, in large part due to MoneyGram Access.
  • Thanks to these on and off-ramps and digital wallets like Vibrant, recipients don’t need a bank account to receive aid, enabling organizations to reach those most vulnerable. In this pilot of Stellar Aid Assist, UNHCR delivers USDC to the recipient’s Vibrant digital wallet which they can download on a smartphone.
  • With Vibrant, recipients are able to more safely transport and access funds when they need them, whether they are moving across borders or are forced to flee, which restores choice and dignity.


  • As a decentralized blockchain, Stellar confirms millions of transactions per day to its immutable ledger every few seconds. No individual or entity can halt the network, and the integrity of the ledger remains intact.
  • Access to transparent, and up-to-date data supports real time tracking and enhanced reporting for aid organizations
  • Traceability facilitates faster cross-verification & field monitoring to make sure the right people access assistance as quickly as possible

Today, we can see how blockchain technology allows us to scale humanitarian efforts in a way that wasn’t possible before. For fleeing Ukrainians, and primarily for those whose banks are inaccessible, this pilot project providing humanitarian assistance using a digital wallet, will serve as a possible lifeline for survival. The project itself is a vivid example of how blockchain has the potential to transform and revolutionize the way humanitarian funds are allocated. The use of blockchain technology allows humanitarian organizations such as UNHCR to be more transparent and accountable and ensure that the most vulnerable people will have access to funds provided in their name.

Oleksandr Bornyakov, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine on IT industry Development


Providing humanitarian assistance

The program is being piloted in Ukraine, specifically in Kyiv, Lviv, and Vinnytsia before expanding to other towns and cities in the country. ​​The money provides humanitarian assistance to some of the people most impacted and vulnerable due to the war, helping them cover basic needs like rent of accommodation, food, medical care, and heating during the winter.

First piloted in 2022, the solution is expected to expand and reach more war-affected people inside Ukraine as well as refugees from Ukraine this year. As the program continues to gather more feedback and data, Stellar Aid Assist will continue to expand its capabilities to meet the needs of aid organizations and recipients.

Who's On Board

Powering Global Aid Delivery

Stellar Aid Assist in Action

The Stellar Development Foundation, Circle, MoneyGram International, and the Vibrant wallet application have collaborated to launch a novel relief program powered by blockchain technology. Together we’re using Stellar Aid Assist to provide qualified Ukrainians in need with digital aid, specifically the USD Coin (USDC), paid directly to their phones. USD Coin (USDC) is a digital currency that is fully backed by U.S. dollar assets (1 USDC = 1 USD). Eligible Ukrainians can register with a participating relief organization to receive digital relief aid through the Vibrant wallet and get the funds in cash at participating MoneyGram locations.


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