Blockchain aids Syrian women refugees

September 21, 2018
Chris Wheal

United Nations World Food Programme

WFO has partnered with UN Women for the initiative

In a joint initiative between UN Women and the World Food Programme (WFP), blockchain technology is being employed to help women Syrian refugees caught in crisis situations.

The two bodies are working together within the UN Women’s cash for work programme at the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan.

Syrian refugee women participating in the initiative, who previously had to wait to receive cash once a month on a set date will be able to access funds immediately, all of which will be securely maintained on the blockchain.

Use of the blockchain is also helping to empower Syrian women refugees. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, commented: “We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world.”

Potential initiatives

UN Women and the WFP are also considering the potential for helping refugee women with cash back at WFP-contracted supermarkets. This would involve recipients using an innovative iris scan payment system, with London-based IrisGuard, to request cash back.

This would link back to her account on the blockchain, with the amount sent to Building Blocks, the WFP’s first project to embrace the blockchain for more efficient, transparent and secure cash transfers. In 2017, it undertook pilot projects in Pakistan’s Sindh province and in Jordan to determine the technology’s capabilities.

Building Blocks has since helped provide cash transfers to 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan through the blockchain and is aiming to reach all 500,000 Syrian refugees.

The WFP received a €2m contribution in April this year from Belgium to support its innovative projects, including the blockchain-based programme to combat world hunger. The agency, which works in more than 80 countries to feed people caught up in conflict, said the funds would go toward increasing efforts with its blockchain pilot as well as its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project.

Its aim is to eradicate world hunger by the year 2030.David Beasley, the WFP’s executive director, said the agency was always exploring new methods to help people, adding: “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.”

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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