Use Cases: UN Supported Refugee Camp Currency

The first in a series of example applications of cryptocurrency

April 2020, 2 min read

A fence line in low light

Whilst it's all very well holding balances of coins in your wallet and watching their prices swings, we will all one day need to see these currencies providing value in real life.


I thought it would be helpful to start a series documenting real world use cases of crypto currencies to track this.


This use case dates back to 2017 when the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) needed to address issues whereby refugees could not access traditional banking institutions to open accounts and purchase essential foods. They set about utilising blockchain technologies to facilitate alternative approaches to payments in a Jordanian refugee camp contains over 100,000 Syrians.


The implemented technology consists of a private Ethereum blockchain built on the OpenEthereum network containing accounts for each refugee participating in the program. These accounts are are credited with what are essentially digital food tokens. The refugee is then able to spend these at grocers and retailers in the camps. Payment is authenticated via an iris scan (leveraging the UN's existing biometric cataloging) and negating the need to carry physical wallets/smartphones (which many could not afford). Retailers are then paid monthly by the WFP who, thanks to the blockchain network, have instant transparency into account balances and activities without needing o pay a third party to reconcile them.


This approach is highly secure, private, and convenient and an excellent example of how a cashless society could operate at an extremely local level.