The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has utilized the blockchain technology to assist Syrian refugees in Jordan through the Building Blocks Project. The project’s blockchain system authenticates purchases at supermarkets in refugee camps.
The WFP’s Building Blocks Project now serves more than 10,000 people in the Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps.
The project creates and manages humanitarian aid accounts using blockchain and iris scanning technology. Refugees can buy goods at WFP-run supermarkets in the camps by scanning their eyes or codes sent via text messages.
Houman Haddad, WFP’s head of emerging technologies, introduced the use of blockchain to transfer cash to refugees.
“We enable the people we serve to purchase the food themselves through bank cards, e-vouchers or cash. It means they can choose what they eat, which is more dignified for them, more cost-effective and stimulating for the local economy,” said Haddad.
To deliver financial aid to refugees, a financial provider such as a bank is needed to be able to create accounts and process transactions. With blockchain technology, there is no need for a financial provider, eliminating these intermediary costs.
Stefano Santoro, who heads the cash-based transfer system in Jordan, revealed that about US$64 million has been transferred to more than 100,000 account holders in the refugee camps.
Haddad is determined to expand the Building Blocks Project to payments in other areas, such as education and health care, with the use of a “multi-wallet.” He suggested using blockchain as a digital storage space that allows refugees to access their personal information from anywhere.
The technology could ensure transparency of information gathered across the humanitarian sector, he added.
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