Thanks to Bitcoin revolution: Refugees can pay by iris scan

In cooperation with the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Unit for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women) wants to use blockchain technology to help Syrian refugee women in crisis situations.

Since 2012, UN Women has been supporting women in refugee camps with the largest cash-for-work programme aimed at women. As the name suggests, women have received cash for their work to date. However, external financial service providers such as banks were also involved in this process. Now the World Food Programme (WFP) wants to support UN Women in helping the refugees in the refugee camps Za’atari and Azraq in Jordan with state-of-the-art technology. In the future, they will have direct access to their funds and be able to store their accounts securely in a blockchain network.

Money from the Bitcoin revolution

With the help of the Bitcoin revolution, UN Women and WFP want to offer female refugees the opportunity to withdraw money in supermarkets commissioned by the WFP or to pay for their purchases directly. The WFP has already successfully implemented a similar Bitcoin revolution project. “Building Blocks” provides 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan with cash transfers via a blockchain-based system.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, explained the motivation behind the Blockchain project in a press release of 18 September:

“We know that women in crisis and displacement situations tend to have less digital literacy than men, and they lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so important in today’s world. UN Women is partnering with WFP to change this by using innovative technologies to drive change for women in the most difficult situations and accelerate progress towards the economic empowerment of women on a large scale”.

David Beasley, Executive Director of WFP, is also pleased with the collaboration:

“At WFP, we will explore all ways to provide the most efficient and effective means to those who need it. Our work with UN Women to help female Syrian refugees is another sign of this innovative spirit. In this case, we use technology to further influence the lives of those we serve.”

Money by Bitcoin loophole

The money earned is fixed on the Bitcoin loophole and can only be managed by the person who earned it. To ensure this, the WFP has developed a system that many only know from films: the iris scan. So the eye is scanned and only when it matches the data on the Bitcoin loophole it is possible to withdraw the money or to spend it directly in the supermarkets of the WFP. This method guarantees extraordinary security. While one can lose one’s private key, one’s own eye usually remains in place.

This method was first used by the WFP in February 2016. In cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), it was able to help 76,000 Syrian refugees in the Jordanian refugee camp Zaatari to buy food from camp supermarkets without cash, vouchers or e-cards. The iris scan alone was necessary to check the account balance at the responsible bank. The transaction was finally processed via the payment service provider Middle East Payment Services. With UN Women’s new project – typically Blockchain – the middlemen bank and payment service provider have been eliminated.