Multipurpose Cash Grants (MPGs)

Multipurpose Cash Grants (MPGs) are unrestricted cash transfers that place beneficiary choice and prioritisation of his/her needs at the forefront of humanitarian response.

Currently, MPGs are the only aid modality designed to offer people affected by crisis a maximum degree of flexibility, dignity and efficiency commensurate with their diverse needs. For these reasons, MPGs can also contribute to more successful sector-specific interventions, enabling crisis-affected persons to utilise in-kind goods and access services as they were intended in addition to receiving cash assistance for basic needs.

MPGs as foundation for sector-specific interventions

Source: UNHCR, CaLP, DRC, OCHA, Oxfam, Save the Children, WFP (2015), 'Operational Guidance and Toolkit for Multipurpose Cash Grants'

Supporting crisis-affected and displaced people as economic actors

MPGs encourage humanitarian actors to better understand the local economy and market dynamics in a holistic way, whether the program objective is to meet sector-specific needs or a range of needs that may differ from family to family. 

This short animation video serves as an introduction to Multipurpose Cash Grants and provides an overview of their use, advantages and implications for the different actors of the humanitarian system.

When are MPGs an appropriate response?

MPGs can be used regardless of context – urban and rural, rapid and slow onset, chronic and acute crises, and even natural and complex disasters. What is essential is a context-specific Situation and Response Analysis that prioritises a thorough assessment of the appropriateness and feasibility of different humanitarian interventions, including in-kind and other cash-based responses. As such, MPGs can be used alone or alongside other sector-specific interventions, even enhancing the latter’s effectiveness.

Tools and guidance

A partnership of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations led by UNHCR, with support from ECHO’s Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) grant worked together in 2014-2015 to increase emergency preparedness and capacity to deliver Multipurpose Cash Grants and to understand the protection risks and benefits of cash-based interventions. The project aimed to strengthen organizational capacity for cash-based interventions and protection through consolidated and adapted tools, and the development of guidance and training materials. 

The following documents related to MPGs were produced as part of the ERC project and can be found in the Resources section of this website:

Operational Guidance and Toolkit for Multipurpose Cash Grants (UNHCR, CaLP, DRC, OCHA, Oxfam, Save the Children, WFP): This toolkit provides comprehensive and practical guidance for humanitarian actors to assess the feasibility, conceptualise the design and structure the implementation of MPGs. The toolkit is available in online version and as PDF.


Evaluation of OneCard Pilot in Lebanon (UNHCR, WFP): This report evalutes a joint UNHCR-WFP e-delivery mechanism for cash assistance in Lebanon. The evaluation compared the use of the joint OneCard platform to two independent card systems to deliver cash assistance in terms of processes, costs, suitability, beneficiary satisfaction, and cost-efficiency.


Review of Targeting of Cash and Food Assistance for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt (UNHCR, WFP): This report reviews the process of developing protocols for targeting cash and food assistance to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan during 2014. It documents the process of joint UNHCR-WFP activities on targeting, reflections of the people involved, and emerging issues and lessons which should be considered in future guidance and operations.



A Multipurpose Cash Grant (MPG) is defined as a cash transfer (either regular or one-off) corresponding to the amount of money a household needs to cover, fully or partially, a set of basic and/or recovery needs. MPGs are by definition unrestricted cash transfers.

The Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) is defined as what a household requires in order to meet basic needs – on a regular or seasonal basis – and its average cost over time. Basic needs are defined by affected households themselves, International Humanitarian Law and Sphere Standards. MPGs will contribute to the MEB, but can also include other one-off or recovery needs.


UNHCR, CaLP, DRC, OCHA, Oxfam, Save the Children and WFP (2015), 'Operational Guidance and Toolkit for Multipurpose Cash Grants'

Evaluation of OneCard Pilot in Lebanon (UNHCR, WFP)

Review of Targeting of Cash and Food Assistance for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt (UNHCR, WFP)

10 Common Principles for Multi-purpose Cash-based Assistance to Respond to Humanitarian Needs (ECHO)