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IOM using biometrics to facilitate aid for displaced persons in South Sudan

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IOM using biometrics to facilitate aid for displaced persons in South Sudan

Authorities of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) say the use of biometrics has proved to be a reliable way through which thousands of forcibly displaced South Sudanese as well as refugees from neighbouring Sudan are identified for humanitarian assistance programs in the war-torn country.

In an IOM blog article authored by a staff person working in the South Sudan, the continuing insecurity and natural disasters such as floods there, plus the fighting in neighbouring Sudan have led to an uptick in the number of displaced persons who require social welfare support in displacements camps across the country.

Given the growing number of such needy persons who live in eight different camps, the articles notes that the use of biometrics delivers “efficiency in providing immediate life-saving humanitarian assistance” especially in the face of “persistent effects of climate change, disasters and environmental degradation and conflict both within and in neighbouring countries.”

Deploying the right biometric system, the IOM believes, is an “effective way to not only register those internally displaced but also improve the reliability of verification, and support inter-agency coordination and distribution of urgent needs including food and shelter.”

It notes that the use of biometrics has replaced the manual and paper tokens hitherto used which were prone to loss or physical damage due to the precarious conditions under their holders live.

Per the article, new arrivals at displaced persons camps are biometrically enrolled for the IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matric system (DTM) which allows for the creation of profiles for beneficiaries. Those registered are later issued plastic biometric cards which enable them to collect food rations and other vital supplies.

There is also a system in place through which problems related to lost or damaged biometric cards are quickly addressed.

Both IOM authorities and some beneficiary internally displaced persons (IDPs) have praised the efficient and secure nature of the biometric system, with the IOM’s DTM officer for South Sudan, Benson Mbogani, saying it “plays an important role in optimizing targeted service provision by humanitarian actors.”

One displaced woman, Tereza Nyakuola, is quoted as expressing immense joy over the biometric card, describing it as “not just a card” but her “right hand.”

Biometrics for humanitarian purposes has been discussed at length by different stakeholders, with many qualifying it as one of the effective ways of providing humanitarian assistance despite some of the risks the technology comes with.

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