Syrian refugees get direct access to funds via UN blockchain

Cash for work initiative removes the need for third party banks

Syrian refugee women participating in UN Women’s cash for work programmes can now access their funds directly via blockchain.

UN Women has formed a partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) for people taking part in the programme at the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan.

Traditionally, cash transfers have been made available to refugees via third-party financial service providers such as banks, with women receiving a cash monthly entitlement on a set date. UN Women and WFP are exploring the possibility of providing female refugees with cash back at WFP-contracted supermarkets, or enabling them to pay for their purchases directly.

How it works

To access their funds, a refugee scans her eye and this then links to her account on the blockchain. The amount of the cash distribution is automatically sent to WFP’s Building Blocks platform, which already provides cash transfers to 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan through a blockchain-based system.

UN Women and WFP validate each other’s transaction through a common blockchain network, which aims to drive improved security and accountability.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women’s Executive Director, says women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to technology and connectivity. “UN Women is partnering with WFP to change this by using innovative technology to drive change for women in the most challenging settings and to accelerate progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale,” she explains.

“At WFP, we will explore every possible way to deliver the help people need, in the most efficient and effective means available,” adds David Beasley, Executive Director of WFP. “Our work with UN Women to help female Syrian refugees is yet another sign of that innovative spirit, in this case using technology to make an even bigger impact on the lives of those we serve.”

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