Getting Cash to Syrian Refugees in Jordan – the Eyes Have It

Banks in Jordan are using iris scan technology to help Syrian refugees access cash assistance provided by the UNHCR.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 12.14.15

Banks in Jordan are using iris scan technology to help Syrian refugees access cash assistance provided by the UNHCR.

According to current data from the UNHCR, over 630,000 refugees from Syria are currently located in neighbouring Jordan. The UNHCR also provides monthly financial assistance to around 23,000 refugee families spread out through Jordan’s urban areas. To help facilitate how these families can access their cash, the UNHCR teamed with the Cairo Amman Bank to install iris scanners in ATMs.

People who qualify for the financial support receive an SMS once a month when the money has been deposited into their account. They then go to a participating bank, have their eyes scanned by a device that is attached to the ATM and gain access to their funds without needing a PIN or card.

Jordan is the first country in the world to introduce this type of technology to assist refugees. Opting for biometric technology instead of the standard card and PIN method heavily reduces the risk of fraud while the running costs of the system are kept low.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the system is that it allows displaced persons a certain level of autonomy. The standard procedure of getting access to monthly sums of cash assistance involves people having to queue up at their local UNHCR office. Enabling people to collect their funds from ATMs allows them more flexibility and means they can take out their cash when it is convenient and suitable for them.

The success of this project has led to other pilot projects implementing iris scan technology to provide aid to refugees. The World Food Programme, for instance, has trialled using the technology at points of sale in supermarkets to allow people to buy groceries and other commodities.

World Food Programme Expands Roll-out of the ShareTheMeal App

To help feed 20,000 Syrian children currently displaced in Jordan, the World Food Programme is expanding the roll-out of its ShareTheMeal app. The app simplifies the process of donating to the World Food Programme and prompts users to donate 50 US cents, enough money to provide one child with a day’s worth of sustenance. ShareTheMeal was initially trialled in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in June 2015 (you can read our take on it here) and resulted in over 1.7 million meals being provided to school children throughout Lesotho.

Apart from meeting people’s physical needs, providing sustainable, ongoing access to aid and necessities is vital in more ways than one – according to World Food Programme director, Ertharin Cousin, cutting aid to refugees displaced in the Middle East can make them vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups.

Find out more about UNHCR’s cash assistance programme here. Download the ShareTheMeal app for iOS here and for Android here.

Google Provides Useful Info to Refugees via the ‘Crisis Info Hub’

The number of refugees is rising and the conflict and war is not letting up. Numerous organisations, NGOs and volunteer helpers are working tirelessly to help refugees and cope with the crisis. Google has released a new open source project to assist refugees on their journey – the Crisis Info Hub.

App Provides Immediate Assistance to Refugees in Europe

A team of activists from Hungary has developed an app called InfoAid designed to help refugees urgently seeking assistance. Asylum seekers who are right now travelling through Europe can receive vital up-to-date information direct to their smartphone.