UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) Building Blocks For Syrian Refugees


When we hear the world blockchain, we immediately think about cutting-edge Fintech firms but never something to do with World Food Program. In a development that shows revolutionizing potential of the new technology, WFP is taking early steps to harness blockchain technology to be able to deliver assistance more effectively.

Building Blocks is an Ethereum blockchain-based project that has, since 2017, helped the WFP distribute cash-for-food aid to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. By 2019 it hopes to be working with all 500,000 refugees in the country as well as with other sister UN agencies and beyond.

So, how it works on an individual level is that refugees go to supermarket wired to Eye Pay. At the checkout instead of handing over cash they look into the biometric scanner and it checks the blockchain database to both confirm their identity and the credit in their bank account. Transmitting funds via local finance networks can result in inefficiency, high operational costs, and corruption. However, early results from the WFP Building Blocks program show an impressive 98% reduction in transaction fees.

Obviously, this technology is not just limited to food. More than a billion people, including refugees, trafficked children, and homeless people do not have an ID to access a bank account or other elements that lead to financial stability. Projects like Building Blocks are supposed to solve problems.

It is worth noticing that such projects that collect huge amounts of Biometric data are prone to data privacy issues too. The Facebook data issue is fresh on everyone’s mind and the data that Building Blocks is collecting is more intrusive than what Facebook has on its users. However, as of now, the project seems to be solving inefficiencies in the system and there are talks that similar project is soon to be deployed in the Rohingya crisis too.

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