UNHCR relies on biometrics for refugee assistance programs in South Sudan

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In South Sudan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is using digital fingerprinting to strengthen refugee protection, as well as help the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

UNHCR is conducting the first biometric registration exercise in South Sudan using digital fingerprint technology. The nearly 200,000 refugees in the country had been previously registered in standard databases but it’s believed biometrics will help to better identify refugees for a more efficient deployment of assistance in their adjustment.

In the Yida refugee settlement, the largest in South Sudan with more than 65,000 refugees, biometrics is a critical way for UNHCR to target services, prevent multiple registrations and make planning and delivery more efficient. As Yida is close to the border, the UNHCR suggests it is not unusual for refugees to risk their lives by returning home to escort their family members to safety, and these movements make maintaining accurate population figures for the refugee settlement a challenge.

According to the UNHCR, it is using this registration process to update information on special needs such as female-headed households, pregnant or lactating women, or malnourished children. In this way, protection staff can quickly identify and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in a camp made up of more than 70 percent women and children.

Biometrics and digital fingerprinting are proving themselves to be essential technologies for managing refugee assistant programs for the United Nation agency. As reported previously in BiometricUpdate.com, the UNHCR is also working in partnership with the Senegalese government to provide digitized biometric ID cards to some 19,000 refugees. These biometric ID cards include a picture of the holder as well as fingerprints and biographical data.

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