The United Nations World Food Programme has launched a pilot scheme that’s helping 1,000 Iraqi refugee families in Syria by sending them food vouchers as text messages. Iraqi refugees living in Damascus will receive a text message on their mobiles providing a code that can be used at selected government shops. They will be able to exchange part of all of their electronic vouchers for conventional aid items including rice, wheat flour, lentils, chickpeas, oil and canned fish. In addition, because the food is being bought over-the-counter and isn’t being distributed in pre-packaged parcels, cheese and eggs are also available.
Each family will receive one SMS voucher worth $22 (£13.40) per person every two months. Families will also be sent a balance update whenever they redeem part or all of a voucher. This is thought to be the first time mobiles have been used to deliver food vouchers; mobile phone service provider MTN has donated SIM cards for the project. [Press release]