Save the Children has commenced rolling out a digital cash program in Fiji that could transform the way aid is delivered in the country in the aftermath of humanitarian crises.
The AU$6.6m program uses Vodafone’s Mpaisa platform to transfer funds to pre-selected households once a month for four months, making it the largest humanitarian cash transfer in Fiji’s history.
The first payments have so far been sent to about 4,000 households to help them meet their basic needs and will reach around 14,000 families.
It is hoped the technology can also be utilised to support communities affected by disasters like earthquakes and cyclones.
Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said:
“It really is a game changer to be able to use mobile phone technology to transfer funds to families on this scale, providing an instantaneous, cost-effective form of assistance.
“This kind of technology has the ability to transform the way we help people in the aftermath of disasters, and in the most efficient and dignified manner possible.
“Once the families have been identified and the systems set up, payments can be replicated and expanded again and again, depending on the needs, donors and evolving situation.
“Not only do payments of this nature enable those affected by disasters to buy the things they need, but it supports local markets and businesses, stimulating the economy.”
Mr Ronalds urged the Australian government to take notice of the program, with a view to using the technology in the future.
“We’ve long been calling for a Pacific JobKeeper type of social protection to support vulnerable households among our Pacific neighbours, and this technology shows how such a system could work.
“Once a program like this is established, it can be expanded or repurposed quickly depending on the situation. This kind of innovation is the way of the future when it comes to aid delivery.”
Save the Children Fiji CEO Shairana Ali said the program, delivered in partnership with Vodafone and other civil society organisations, would provide enormous support for families and children hit hardest by COVID-19.
“So many families in Fiji have had their livelihoods decimated by COVID-19 and the restrictions it has brought.
“A partnership with digital mobile money companies like Vodafone means that we can quickly reach the most vulnerable families across Fiji – those who’ve had their basic household income slashed and are in desperate need of help to meet the immediate needs of their children.
“Our expertise in cash transfers and Vodafone’s huge reach across Fiji means families are feeling the relief they desperately need during these trying times.”
In order to identify households in the greatest need of assistance, Save the Children Fiji worked closely with local NGOs like the Fiji Council of Social Services to develop assessment criteria that targets vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and people living with a disability.
Save the Children uses cash and voucher assistance to support households impacted by disasters all over the world, however the use of digital cash is a recent development.
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