Iraqi Refugees To Receive Food Aid Via Text

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News Posted: Wed, Oct 28 2009 8:36 PM
There truly is an app for anything - even life-saving food vouchers.

TheUnited Nations World Food Programme this week announced a pilot projectin which Iraqi refugee families in Syria will receive food vouchers viatext message.

About 1,000 families in Damascus will receiveone voucher worth about $22 per family member every two months. Thevirtual vouchers will be codes they can use to purchase rice, wheat,lentils, cheese, eggs andother items not distributed in conventional aid baskets.

"This pilot project will allow WFP to meet the needs of refugees livingin a city where food is available but they are unable to afford it," Daly Belgasmi, the WFP's Regional Director for the Middle East,Central Asia and Eastern Europe, said in a statement.

More than 1.2 million Iraqi refugees are living in Syria, according to government figures. Of those, 130,000 (all of whom have mobile phones, WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella told Agence France-Presse) regularlyreceive food aid and other assistance from the WFP and the U.N. HighCommissioner for Refugees, so this pilot program is but a drop in thebucket. However, if it works, it could be a huge boon to refugees allover the world.

Special SIM cards were donated by mobile phone service provider MTN forthe four-month pilot, which could be extended if successful.

Syria’s Ministry of Economy and Trade will provide the food items throughits stores in the Jaramana and Sayeda Zeinab neighbourhoods inDamascus, where most Iraqi refugees live.

Thewider ramifications of such a program are that people who are scatteredto outlying areas, away from most refugees and far from places whereaid is generally distributed, could have a much easier time getting aidin the future.

"People will no longer need to queue at food distribution points ortravel long distances to distribution centres," WFP Syria Country Director Muhannad Hadi said in a statement. "They will also be able to have a morediversified diet, based on their own personal choices and preferences."

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realneil replied on Thu, Oct 29 2009 9:18 AM

Giving these people a choice of what they eat is a measure of respect shown to them.

I like this idea and I'm sure that the recipients will too.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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gibbersome replied on Thu, Oct 29 2009 10:56 PM

realneil, you're forgetting a major issue here: corruption. Stolen or hacked SIM cards would just be the beginning.

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