WFP's new e-card reduces Syrian refugees suffering
by Communications Team, October 31, 2013
As part of its massive humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is rolling out an innovative electronic voucher programme in Lebanon that will allow hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to meet their food needs and help boost the local economy.
Piloted in September for some 2,000 Syrian households (around 10,000 people) in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh, the e-card programme will be gradually expanded to other parts of the country in the coming weeks, replacing WFP’s paper vouchers. By the year’s end, some 800,000 refugees will be using these electronic vouchers – or “e-cards” – at participating shops in Lebanon under an initiative realized with the technical support of WFP’s private sector partner, MasterCard.
“This is a real boon for Syrian refugees who have endured tremendous hardship over many months,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Emergency coordinator for the Syrian crisis. “The e-cards also bring business to local merchants, and they make WFP’s operations more time and cost effective. This is a win for all of us.”
In addition to the obvious benefits provided by the e-cards, they also have a number of other advantages not immediately apparent which make them attractive to WFP and other aid organizations. They can increase women’s control within households in coordinating and meeting food needs, as they can be fully involved in the selection of food for their families.
Besides Lebanon, WFP will be introducing a similar e-card programme for Syrian refugees in Jordan, again with MasterCard’s support, in a phased rollout for an initial 300,000 refugees by the end of 2013 that will continue into 2014. Meanwhile a similar programme in Turkey, outside the MasterCard partnership, transfers more than US$4 million a month to the “e-food cards” of around 115,000 Syrian refugees.
The e-cards reflect WFP’s broader shift away from physical food deliveries to e-vouchers and other cutting-edge forms of assistance that can be more effective and have a larger impact. So far in 2013, through voucher programmes for Syrian refugees, WFP has injected roughly US$ 192 million into the local economies of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
The Syria response is WFP’s largest and most complex emergency operation. WFP needs US$30 million each week to meet the needs of people affected by the conflict.
WFP’s operations in Lebanon are being supported by Australia, Canada, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Norway, UK and the US, among others.
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Better Than Cash Alliance, New York, USA
Communications Team at Better Than Cash Alliance, based in New York, NY.