United Nations World Food Programme Uses Ethereum to Aid Syrian Refugees

The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and food security. It reaches approximately 80 million people in over 80 countries across the globe. In responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, the WFP implemented an Ethereum-based blockchain to manage its cash-based transfer (CBT) system. To date, 10,000 Syrian refugees living in the Azraq camp in Jordan have benefitted from this improvement.

Robert Opp, the WFP’s director of innovation and change management, told ETHNews how blockchain has enhanced the existing framework and reduced the cost of fees charged by financial intermediaries. Additionally, by registering refugees on the blockchain, the WFP has been able to securely distribute food entitlements. Refugees can participate in the local food economy and pay at approved retailers by using retinal scanners. The blockchain enables payment reconciliation between the WFP and the designated retailer.

“We constantly need to make sure that we’re having transparency and maximum security in our payments. And I believe blockchain strengthens that for sure,” said Opp. He went on to say, “If we can demonstrate the effectiveness of blockchain, I actually think that we could scale fairly quickly.”

The WFP exchanges U.S. dollars to Jordanian dinars before providing the CBT to refugees. Although the WFP has not yet introduced a cryptocurrency into its process, it remains a possibility.

Presently, there are five million Syrian refugees living outside of Syria, so the WFP has a great incentive to expand this blockchain operation.

Opp also noted the potential for supply chain and identity management through the blockchain. Tracking the movement of food from warehouse to warehouse could help the WFP follow its resource allocation.

“When I think blockchain, this is not just San Francisco and New York,” said Opp. “If this can [reach] the poorest people in the world, the most vulnerable people in the world, I really think it could be a transformation story.”