At a Moment’s Notice: Mercy Corps Tests and Deploys an E-Voucher System for Crises in the DRC
Guest post by Sara Murray, May 29, 2014
The following is a guest post by Sara Murray, Electronic Payments Program Manager at Mercy Corps, a Better Than Cash Alliance member.
We first introduced electronic vouchers to the DRC after we piloted a successful trial program in Nepal. Mercy Corps knows that electronic transfers can help deliver aid more quickly and securely to communities in crisis. But we’ve also seen that establishing these systems consumes precious time and resources in the aftermath of emergencies. In 2013, Mercy Corps, with support from MasterCard, began searching for electronic cash transfer systems that can be set up and deployed globally at a moment’s notice. We launched the ELEVATE program to test global electronic voucher platforms in a non-emergency setting in Nepal, transferring vouchers through both smartphone applications and SMS messages to families in Kathmandu’s urban slum areas. Recipients were able to buy items they needed locally, and this low-pressure pilot environment allowed us to sample globally available, “off the shelf” solutions, while creating and adjusting internal implementation procedures.
A Mercy Corps beneficiary shows off his newly purchased bike wheels and e-voucher card. Being able to travel to farms further away means that he’ll now have higher and more reliable source of income A Mercy Corps beneficiary shows off his newly purchased bike wheels and e-voucher card. Being able to travel to farms further away means that he’ll now have a higher and more reliable source of income
Last month we made our first disbursements using e-vouchers outside the
remote town of Dungu, an area recovering from attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. We invited vulnerable families to a marketplace to shop for household items, food and other essential goods with electronic vouchers.
Many people purchased mattresses with their vouchers, explaining that they either never had a proper bed or had lost theirs when they became displaced. Moving from sleeping on straw mats or leaves to having a proper bed was important in re-establishing, or even elevating, former standards of living and regaining a sense of dignity. It’s also an example of a large purchase that is difficult for people to save for, since keeping over $25 in cash at the home is considered risky, and other savings tools are hard to come by.
About the Author
Electronic Payments Program Manager at Mercy Corps
As Mercy Corps’ Electronic Payment Program Manager, Sara Murray works with teams across the globe to deliver humanitarian aid using new technologies. Recently, Sara has designed, implemented and evaluated emergency response and recovery programs in Nepal, the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By Communications Team, December 22, 2014