Oxfam and Visa use prepaid cards for disaster relief

Oxfam and Visa use prepaid cards for disaster relief

Oxfam has teamed up with Visa, Philippines-based UnionBank and payments firm i2c to channel funds to people in disaster-affected communities through prepaid cards.

The partners began working on the Electronic Prepaid Solution (EPS) project in the wake of the super typhoon Haiyan in 2013 as a way to get money to poor families that often lose all their assets in one fell swoop.

Giving cash to victims presents logistical headaches and security risks, says Oxfam, which instead wants to provide EPS cards that are credited with a fixed amount that can be withdrawn from ATMs and partner remittance centres and used for over-the-counter purchases at local merchants and for purchases through a mobile store set up 20 kilometers from the city.

The system has been tested in places affected by super typhoon Haiyan since late 2014, with 2700 cards holding $188,023 issued. Merchants say that the most common items bought with the cards are water, sanitation and hygiene items, food, and medicine. Beneficiaries say they saved some of the money as their “disaster emergency fund” and as investment.

Justin Morgan, country director, Philippines programme, Oxfam, says: "The EPS Project is helping empower disaster-affected communities by allowing them to make their own financial decisions. Oxfam hopes to work with Visa to scale up the project and find more ways of delivering payment services for post-disaster recovery, including sustainable livelihood programs.

"This is just the beginning. After seeing the success of the project in the Philippines, Oxfam plans to replicate this in future humanitarian response programs, both here in the Philippines as well as in other countries across the globe."

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