The United Nations food relief and refugee agencies have jointly introduced an innovative iris scan payment system in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, allowing 76,000 Syrian refugees to purchase food from camp supermarkets by using a scan of their eyes instead of cash, vouchers or e-cards.
The cutting-edge technology was first introduced by the World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in February in Jordan’s King Abdullah Park refugee camp and was expanded to Azraq refugee camp in April, with an eye towards expanding to refugees outside of camps, according to a news release from WFP.
WFP’s system relies on UNHCR biometric registration data of refugees. The system is powered by IrisGuard, the company that developed the iris scan platform, Jordan Ahli Bank and its counterpart Middle East Payment Services.
Once a shopper has their iris scanned, the system automatically communicates with UNHCR’s registration database to confirm the identity of the refugee, checks the account balance with the financial services firms and then confirms the purchase and prints out a receipt – all within seconds.
Through the iris scan and electronic voucher programme, WFP supports more than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan.