Building a Better Life for Refugees with Blockchain

  • October 18, 2017

Blockchain, defined as a shared digital ledger where transactions are made in cryptocurrency and can be exchanged but not altered, is a growing topic of discussion amongst financial firms.  Proponents of blockchain emphasize the efficiency, transparency, and security of the payment system.  In May, blockchain made its debut at grocery stores in a refugee camp in Azraq, Jordan, to allow 36,000 Syrian refugees access to a food stipend from the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP).  

The program, called Building Blocks, was originally supposed to be a one-month trial.  Because of the success in Arzaq, the WFP plans to use Building Blocks in other refugee camps around the country, reaching over 100,000 people.  Houman Haddad, finance officer for the WFP and founder of Building Blocks, expects the system to be available in other countries by 2018.

Other payment methods used by international relief organizations can end up costing transaction fees and other unforeseen costs.  Organizations are estimated to lose up to 3.5% in transaction fees for each payment processed, and an estimated 30% of development funds never reach the recipient in need due to theft and other mismanagement circumstances.  Haddad’s Building Blocks has cut money-management costs by 98%. 

The ultimate goal, according to Haddad, is to give uprooted people “as much control as possible” over their own lives.  Since Building Blocks is mostly open-sourced, developers hope its use can expand beyond the checkout line.  With more and more refugees seeking asylum in foreign lands, Building Blocks provides a safe way for refugees to maintain some financial independence in the interim.   


Sources: Fast Company

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