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Study Overview

Can early action mitigate climate disaster distress under the risk of multiple hazards? - The ‘Life in Bentiu’ Study
Study is 3ie funded:
Study ID:
Initial Registration Date:
Last Update Date:
Study Status:
South Sudan

Climate shocks are the main driver of modern displacement and disproportionately harm vulnerable groups in low income countries. Households exposed to the stress of recurrent hazard risk consider these in their decision making. Therefore, households in settings of recurrent hazards behave systematically differently compared to other households. Early action support provided in anticipation of disastrous events is aimed to support households to build up resilience against these shocks. However, there is no rigorous evidence whether this approach can effectively mitigate the distress of disastrous events in humanitarian emergency settings. We hypothesize that households exposed to acute risk of climate hazards will allocate their available resources into resilience-building measures. Providing households with early action support will reduce the harm of adverse shocks which translates into systematically better welfare outcomes compared to the counterfactual. In this study, we test if early action assistance in the form of a cash transfer mitigates flood distress on food security, health and mental health. We study a setting in a refugee camp in Bentiu, South Sudan, with a quasi-random approach. Treatment households were provided with a cash transfer in anticipation of severe floods while control households did not receive cash support. The panel data set with ~ 1,200 observations per wave includes a baseline, a midline, a wave immediately after the cash transfer and an endline six months after the assistance provision and after the peak floods. Using the honest causal forest machine learning algorithm, we derive short- and medium-run impacts of the early action support on welfare outcomes. We further estimate the resilience impact against disastrous events. This research will enhance the understanding on how households prioritize intervestments under extreme uncertainty and further how a better preparedness translates i

Registration Citation:
Health, Nutrition, and Population
Water and Sanitation
Additional Keywords:
Food Security, Humanitarian Emergency, Climate Shocks
Secondary ID Number(s):

Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Ghassan Baliki
ISDC - International Security and Development Center
Name of Second PI:
Tilman Brück
ISDC - International Security and Development Center

Study Sponsor

Study Sponsor Location:
United States

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Not applicable
South Sudan

Intervention Overview


The main intervention site is located in Unity State in South Sudan. Households residing in the informal IDP camps near Bentiu are provided with a range of livelihood and humanitarian support to improve their living conditions at both the community and household levels in anticipation of the floods. The main focus of the impact study is the cash distribution that was provided by IOM for vulnerable households. 43,950 SSP were provided to about 15% of the households in the informal campsites in the area. Beneficiaries of the cash distribution were selected by IOM in coordination with the community leaders in these settlements, who targeted the most vulnerable households, including female-headed households with elderly or people with mobility impairments. Households were selected and registered to receive the cash, which was distributed in all sites between 25 and 29 September 2022. The early action support aims to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable households and communities against forecasted extreme events like flood by improving preparedness to absorb the negative impacts of the shocks.

Theory of Change:

The early action support in form of a cash transfer is hypothesized to allow households to invest primarily in their shelters and assets in anticipation of the flooding. Improved shelter conditions will reduce the likelihood of water leakages immediately and significantly reduce the intrusion of water into their homes. This will decrease the households’ risk of falling into a state of emergency. We expect that during the heavy flood periods, households will improve their overall satisfaction levels and mental wellbeing. Moreover, dry shelters are expected to sustain and improve adequate social, economic and health-related living conditions during the critical phase. This will improve the food security levels and reduce the risk of contracting diseases.

Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
IOM - international Organization for Migration
Type of Organization:
NGO (International)

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
CERF - Central Emergency Response Fund
Type of Organization:
NGO (International)

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
Start Date:
End Date:
Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Difference in difference/fixed effects
Other (not Listed) Method:
Additional Evaluation Method (If Any):
Other (specify)
Other (not Listed) Method:
Honest causal forest algorithm

Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

We resemble a randomized design (quasi-random design). We randomly selected treatment households from a full list of beneficiaries. In order to assign a control group highly comparable to the treatment group, we replicated the implementing organization’s beneficiary household selection to assign control households. In coordination with block leaders, the most vulnerable householdsn from the same blocks as the treatment households are selected proportional to their block population size. We followed the same selection criteria (female-headed households with elderly members or members with physical impairments). Having a balanced panel, we will run household-fixed effects models. Further, to better account for treatment heterogeneity, we will apply honest causal forest to derive the conditional average treatment effects. 

Outcomes (Endpoints):

First, we measure the households’ shelter condition. Second, we derive the degree to which the households were affected by adverse shocks, including floods, droughts, conflict, theft and income loss. Third, we measure welfare impacts through a food security score, a health score and a mental health score.

Unit of Analysis:
Resilience against exogenous shocks

1. Households exposed to multiple and recurrent hazards allocate available resources into resilience-building measures so that they will be less affected by upcoming shocks.

2. Less harm through adverse shocks translates into welfare improvements compared to the counterfactual.

Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Number of Clusters in Sample:
No clusters
Number of Individuals in Sample:
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
~600 treatment households, ~600 control households

Supplementary Files

Analysis Plan:
Other Documents:

Outcomes Data

The main data source is a household survey. Four waves from the same households were collected with the same questionnaire from August 2022 to March 2023. Each wave was conducted within three weeks. The first wave was collected before treatment. The second wave was collected around the treatment implementation. The third wave was conducted shortly after the treatment. The fourth data wave was collected six months after the cash distribution and three months after the peak floods.
Data Already Collected?
Data Previously Used?
Data Access:
Restricted -- Access requires a formal approval process
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Approval Process:
Anonymised data can be provided upon a request including a detailed proposal.
Approval Status:
Yes-obtained approval and have received the data

Treatment Assignment Data

Participation or Assignment Information:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Previously Used?
Data Access:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Approval Process:
Approval Status:

Data Analysis

Data Analysis Status:

Study Materials

Upload Study Materials:
Follow-up questionnaire: Life in Bentiu Phase 2 _ KoboToolbox.pdf

Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 3: Data for measuring impacts have been obtained/collected by the research team but analysis for this evaluation has not started

Completion Overview

Intervention Completion Date:
Data Collection Completion Date:
Unit of Analysis:
Clusters in Final Sample:
Total Observations in Final Sample:
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:


Preliminary Report:
Preliminary Report URL:
Summary of Findings:
Paper Summary:
Paper Citation:

Data Availability

Data Availability (Primary Data):
Date of Data Availability:
Data URL or Contact:
Access procedure:

Other Materials

Survey Instrument Links or Contact:
Program Files:
Program Files Links or Contact:
External Link:
External Link Description:
Description of Changes:

Study Stopped