The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has begun to use smart cards to deliver cash assistance in Iraq to participants in its cash-for-assets projects in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewah.
Through this programme, WFP provides employment opportunities and livelihood support to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), returnees and other vulnerable groups.
“The introduction of smart cards is a breakthrough for WFP’s mission in Iraq,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in Iraq Jane Pearce. “This new, exemplary method made the cash-for-assets programme extremely successful, safe and transparent in the country, and gives a fine example of WFP’s innovative approach.”
WFP completed the first cash distribution in October via smart cards to around 5,000 participants, which will benefit 30,000 people, taking family members into account. In 2013 some 46,000 people are due to benefit from cash assistance in Iraq’s three governorates.
In 2012, WFP Iraq completed 71 cash-for-assets projects in nine districts of three governorates (Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewah) injecting US$3 million into the country. Thanks to a US$5.5 million from the US State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, WFP is able to continue cash-for-assets projects in 2013.
The cash assistance covers immediate needs and helps communities rehabilitate and develop assets that benefit the wider population and facilitate resettlement and reintegration. Beneficiaries receive a top-up of around US$200 on average to their card each month for work done on community projects.
They receive the cash for the whole duration of these community projects that include reclamation of swampy areas to build settlements for internally displaced people as well as rehabilitation of green houses, irrigation systems and roads.
“Developing the smart card seemed like mission impossible at first, considering the security situation in the country, its history of international financial sanctions and the fact that credit cards are not in use, so we really see its success as the start of a new chapter,” Pearce said.