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‘WFP using iris scan technology to offer food aid to Syrian refugees’

By JT - Feb 17,2016 - Last updated at Feb 17,2016

AMMAN — The UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Jordan has launched an iris scan payment system allowing Syrian refugees living in camps to purchase food items from local shops using the scan of their eye instead of cash, vouchers or credit cards.

“This is a milestone in the evolution of our food assistance programme, which has come so far from the first few months of the Syria crisis, when we distributed food parcels,” a statement quoted WFP Country Director in Jordan Mageed Yahia as saying.

“With WFP’s iris scan system, we are perfecting the delivery of food assistance, becoming more efficient, enhancing accountability, and making grocery shopping easier and more secure for the refugees,” said the statement, released on Tuesday. 

“The fact that this is happening in Jordan makes it all the more exciting as we hope that it will further contribute to the country’s progress towards being a regional hub for technology.”

The system relies on the UNHCR’s biometric registration data of refugees and works with the WFP’s Jordanian partners: IrisGuard, the company that developed the iris scan platform; Jordan Ahli Bank; and their counterpart Middle East Payment Systems, according to the statement.

Once shoppers have their irises scanned, the system automatically communicates with UNHCR’s registration database to confirm the identity of the refugee, before automatically continuing to the Jordan Ahli Bank through the Middle East Payment System’s financial gateway to determine the refugee’s remaining balance. 

It then confirms the purchase and prints a receipt, the UN agency said.


“WFP is looking to expand the use of its new iris scan payment system for refugees living in all Syrian refugee camps in Jordan during the coming months. Depending on the success of the system in the camps, WFP may also expand the use of this technology in areas outside of the camps,” the statement said.

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