WFP, UNHCR using iris recognition for Syrian refugee food program in Zaatari

October 17, 2016 - 

The World Food Programme (WFP) has partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide an iris scan payment system in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp.

The technology will allow 76,000 Syrian refugees to purchase food from camp supermarkets by scanning their eye instead of using cash, vouchers or e-cards.

Launched in February at Jordan’s King Abdullah Park refugee camp, the iris recognition system was later expanded to Azraq refugee camp in eastern Jordan in April.

“The iris scan payment system has been extremely successful, and we are thrilled that WFP and its partners are now able to serve Syrian refugees living in Jordan’s largest camp through this innovative system,” said WFP country director in Jordan Mageed Yahia. “Iris scan technology has reshaped the shopping experience for Syrian refugees in Jordan, making it easier and more secure for them, while also enhancing accountability.”

WFP’s system, which relies on the UNHCR biometric registration data of refugees, is powered by IrisGuard, Jordan Ahli Bank and its counterpart Middle East Payment Services.

Once the individual’s iris is scanned, the system automatically checks with UNHCR’s registration database to confirm the identity of the refugee, determines the account balance with Jordan Ahli Bank and Middle East Payment Services and then confirms the purchase and prints out a receipt – all within seconds.

“Now I don’t have to worry if I forgot my card at home or if I misplaced it,” said Zaatari resident Hana Heraaki. “Whenever I’m near the shop, I can just walk in and get whatever food that’s missing from home.”

WFP is hoping to expand the use of the technology to refugees living in communities outside of camps.

Through the iris scan and electronic voucher program, WFP supports more than 500,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Additionally, WFP is providing aid to nearly 140,000 Jordanians through food rations and cash for work and cash for training programs.

In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) rolled out its new ID card for refugees, along with a new card verification mobile application, to combat identity fraud and counterfeiting.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.