Using technology to assist vulnerable Syrian refugees during COVID-19 lockdown

A UN Women beneficiary gets her iris scanned, allowing her to buy groceries at the Sameh Mall Supermarket in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan.
Caption: Before the lockdown went into effect, a UN Women beneficiary gets her iris scanned, allowing her to buy groceries at the Sameh Mall Supermarket in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan.
Photo: UN Women/Lauren Rooney

In the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan, a curfew is in place from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m.. Even during the day regulations are in place: people must stay indoors, unless they have to buy food or seek medical help. Only a few essential services, such as hospitals, clinics and supermarkets, remain open.

Even the movement of UN staff has been restricted, complicating the work of reaching the people who need it most. But UN Women’s innovative blockchain cash-disbursement system has proven to be a reliable and resilient system, because it can be managed remotely. As a result, UN Women is one of the agencies in Jordan that has been able to seamlessly and remotely ensure cash continues to reach 213 Syrian refugee women involved in its cash-for-work programmes at the Oases women’s empowerment centres in the camps.

Work is scarce as many workplaces remain closed during the lockdown. UN Women beneficiaries however, continue to receive their salaries at World Food Programme-run supermarkets, which remain open and where iris-scanning technology identifies and links to each woman’s account on UN Women’s blockchain. Women can choose to save their money, receive cash-back, or purchase food and essential supplies. The IrisGuard system involves no physical contact and beneficiaries need not touch any buttons, making it a safer and more hygienic method.

UN Women is also using WhatsApp to disseminate reliable information on COVID-19 prevention and services made available by the Government and WHO

UN Women has also equipped all its Oasis centres with additional sanitization materials and partnered with UNICEF to distribute its stockpile of nearly 1,000 baby kits made by Syrian refugee women in UN Women Oases to the families of all newborns in the camps.

Produced by UN Women. To learn more about how UN Women is providing urgent support, information and essential services to more than 5,700 Syrian refugees in Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps, read the full article, originally published on the UN Women website

UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Health Organization

Goals we are supporting through this initiative