The ongoing conflict in Syria has thrown millions of people into turmoil and displacement. Since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, many of those displaced have pursued sanctuary in other countries. According to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), an estimated 13.5 million people require humanitarian aid. Of this number, the UNHCR estimates there are over five million registered Syrian refugees.
After those seeking asylum are registered through UNHCR, further assistance can be made available to them by other humanitarian organizations, like the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). These groups provide international assistance instruments, such as refugee resettlement programs, international remittance, healthcare services, microfinance, and more. These programs promote a better livelihood and advancement for those displaced. Unsurprisingly, many of them are being spearheaded by emerging technologies, including blockchain.
IrisGuard, a Jordan-based company that provides IT banking, humanitarian relief, and biometric camera systems, has been driving innovation with a new payment system that utilizes a private Ethereum blockchain to enable streamlined payment services. As per IrisGuard:
“The UNHCR has achieved financial inclusion for unbanked refugees and enabled them to efficiently receive international donor cash assistance directly on unattended bank ATM’s and food at checkout counters in supermarkets and nonfood items in camps; all while refugees are either unable or not allowed to open a bank account by law.”
IrisGuard’s product, the EyePay system, has serviced over 10,000 refugees in Jordan using iris recognition technology (IRT) that allows for food purchases to be settled on the blockchain. All transactions are secure due to the blockchain’s robust encryption system and are executed without the need for a card, pin, username, password, ID, or mobile device. This renders the platform attractive to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and aid organizations, as the IRT eradicates the logistical and monetary challenges that would accompany integrating card and smartphone issuance for every refugee.
The system also removes the possibility of fraudulent transactions and embezzlement of funds. Over the past few years, a number of aid programs have come under investigation by governments who have placed humanitarian aid as a core focus of Syria-related policies. In 2016, the United States Government Accountability Office (GOA) released a report that highlighted fraud oversight as an area that US agencies could improve on.
Conversely, IrisGuard could potentially be the solution to the problems of fraud and banking the unbanked. Imad Malhas, founder and CEO of IrisGuard Inc., believes the platform is the way of the future for the world’s unbanked and displaced populations.
“IrisGuard is proud of its partnerships with UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, IOM and all UN agencies and NGO’s trying to make a sustainable difference in the lives of impoverished, undocumented and defenseless refugees. We hope to continue doing our part in realizing a fair and dignified distribution system for the world’s unbanked populations.”