UN Turns To Prepaid Cards
To better aid Syrian refugees, the United Nations is utilizing prepaid debit cards.
by Shane Tripcony
By every measure the ongoing civil war raging in Syria has been a humanitarian disaster. The United Nations estimates that over 100,000 people have died in the years long clash between supporters of President Bashar al-Assad and the various factions seeking his ouster.
Not surprisingly, millions of Syrians have fled the violence that has destroyed cities and towns across the country. An estimated 800,000 Syrians have made the trek to nearby Lebanon, where the United Nations World Food Programme is leading efforts to provide food and water.
As part of that initiative, the UN Food Programme has reportedly decided to utilize MasterCard prepaid debit cards. According to a story on the website, Mashable, the UN is set to begin distributing the cards; each loaded with $27, with the goal of eventually getting one to each and every refugee. Each month the cards will be reloaded with an additional $27, an amount the UN believes is sufficient to meet the monthly nutritional needs of an individual.
The distribution of prepaid debit cards, which can be used to buy food from the 300 Lebanese stores that have agreed to accept them, will replace the UN’s use of both pre-packaged rations and paper vouchers.
UN officials say that the use of prepaid debit cards will provide many benefits. Refugees will no longer have to line up to receive coupons every 30 days and the local economy should get a boost from Syrian purchases. The cards also offer the promise of more self-sufficiency. “They’re just more independent that way,” Bettina Luescher, a spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme told Mashable writer, Colin Daileda. “They can get what they like for their families.”
The cards are also less susceptible to fraud, a MasterCard executive told Mashable, because they’re easy to track and require a UN issued ID to use. The UN has already piloted the use of prepaid debit cards in Lebanon, albeit with just 10,000 people in one town. But if the card works well in all of Syria, the UN plans to begin distributing them to the 300,000 Syrian refugees currently living in Jordan.