Displaced Families Receive ‘E-wallet’ Payments

By The Irrawaddy 7 March 2017

Families in three camps for internally displaced people in Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, have received small electronic cash payments in a pilot program launched by the World Food Program (WFP).

The scheme will deliver a monthly payment of between 9,000 and 13,000 kyats (about US$7-10) per person to vulnerable people who have been displaced by conflict.

A total of 112 families received the first payment via mobile phones at the end of February. Previously the recipients had received the aid in bank notes.

The families can use the phone cash to purchase food and basic items in local shops.

“When food is available in the markets, WFP provides cash assistance rather than distributing food,” said WFP country director Dom Scalpelli in a statement.

Using mobile phones can make the money transfer process faster, safer and more convenient for recipients, he said.

In March, a further 172 families – bringing the total to 284 households or 1,400 people – will receive transfers under the ‘e-wallet’ pilot, which the organization said is the first of its kind in Burma.

WFP is working with Wave Money – a joint venture between Yoma Bank, FMI and the Telenor telecoms company – to electronically credit the money to the private account of each head of household.

The recipients receive an SMS notification of the transfer and can then withdraw the cash at the nearest authorized ‘Wave Shop.’ The WFP provided mobile phones, SIM cards and training in the new system to recipient families.

After April, the WFP will evaluate the trial program based on feedback from participants and on technical grounds, and will decide whether to continue and expand the system or otherwise.

Around half a million people in Burma affected by conflict, intercommunal violence and natural disasters are in need of assistance in Burma, according to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report in January 2017.

The figure includes 218,000 internally displaced people, of whom 80 percent are women and children who are living in camps and host communities in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine [Arakan] States. Another 307,000 vulnerable people still live in their home communities but need humanitarian assistance, OCHA said.

Access to deliver humanitarian aid remains severely restricted in many areas, including Kachin, Shan and Arakan states.