Access to money can make or break communities struck by disaster. Poor families lose all of their assets and savings in one fell swoop, and they need a lifeline to tide them over until they get back on their feet. However, transferring money can be difficult to set up and roll out and is a security risk for organizations responding to large numbers of affected communities.
International non-profit Oxfam in the Philippines, global electronic payments leader Visa, the largest Visa debit card issuing universal bank in the Philippines, UnionBank, and global provider of integrated payments and commerce solutions i2c, together with other private organizations, teamed up for the Electronic Prepaid Solution (EPS) Project, a simple and efficient platform that addresses the challenges in humanitarian “cash transfer programmes.”
“The program has proven that the Oxfam Visa Prepaid Card is more than just a payment tool that enables beneficiaries to purchase everyday items conveniently and securely. It also ushers many of the beneficiaries into the formal financial system, helping them develop life-enhancing financial skills. This project is a great example of how the world’s largest payments technology company and the world’s leading humanitarian organization harness our collective resources to innovate and overcome financial challenges during disasters,” said Stuart Tomlinson, Visa Country Managter for the Philippines and Guam.
Through the EPS Project, a beneficiary identified by Oxfam is issued an EPS card, which is credited with a fixed amount that can be withdrawn from bank automated teller machines (ATMs) and partner remittance centers. It can also be used for over-the-counter purchases at local merchants and for purchases through a mobile store set up 20 kilometers from the city.
“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,” said Justin Morgan, country director for the Philippines program of Oxfam.
“This project fulfills UnionBank’s purpose: to make Da Diff by elevating lives and fulfilling dreams. Leveraging on our card issuance expertise, we elevate the lives of disaster survivors by getting cash aid to them in the quickest way possible ushering their way back to normalcy. And this is only the beginning. UnionBank is committed to continuously work with our partners to improve our customer experience and increase efficiency. Together, we can look forward to bringing this same solution to as many Filipinos as possible,” said Justo Ortiz, UnionBank’s Chairman and CEO.
“The i2c technology platform enables rapid deployment of customized EPS solutions anywhere in the world, so Oxfam and Visa can react quickly to get funds into the hands of people in need in the most secure and efficient way possible,” said Scott Salmon, general manager, International, for i2c. “We are pleased to team with all of our partners to make a real difference in people’s lives, which is core to our company’s mission.”
Together with Metrobank Card, i2c, PhilPost, MLhuiller and local merchants, the EPS was tested in Tacloban City, Leyte and in the municipalities of San Sebastian, San Jorge and Catbalogan City in Western Samar, areas affected by super typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Since December 2014, 2,700 prepaid cards have been issued, with a total of USD 188,023 transferred to beneficiaries
Participating merchants said that the common items bought by beneficiaries were water, sanitation and hygiene items, food, and medicine. Beneficiaries said they saved some of the money as their “disaster emergency fund” and as investment, which dispel the myth that poor people are not ready for the banking system.
Flocerfida Babon, a Cash for Work beneficiary of Oxfam’s Typhoon Hagupit (local name: Ruby) humanitarian response in San Sebastian, West Samar, shared how the prepaid card’s speed and security made life more convenient for disaster survivors like her. “With this card, it is easy to get what you need, when you need. Most importantly, it is safer when you receive money through the card. It cannot be taken or stolen easily compared to having the hard cash on your hands.”
From its Silicon Valley headquarters, i2c provides the infrastructure that financial institutions, corporations, brands, and governments around the world need to launch and profitably manage prepaid, debit, credit, and next-generation commerce products. i2c’s global cloud-based platform supports virtually any card payment program in plastic, virtual or mobile form. Clients in 216 countries and territories use the i2c platform to deliver profitable payment solutions that meet highly differentiated customer needs. For more information visit www.i2cinc.com.