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Visa: Innovation important in extending aid to refugees

visa_logo-300x173Erin Steinhauer, Visa’s head of corporate social responsibility for Asia Pacific, Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa, stressed the importance of innovation in extending aid to areas affected by natural disasters.

“While great strides have been made in delivering much-needed assistance to displaced persons since the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees entered into force in 1954, relief and assistance to refugees still largely come in the form of food and supplies,” Steinhauer said last Thursday on World Refugee Day. “While these forms of aid provide valuable assistance that can make a world of difference, they can also be expensive to transport, inefficient and ineffective.  In places prone to corruption, relief in the form of cash may never reach those in need. Today, evolutions in technology are enabling new industries, such as electronic payment systems, to play a vital and complementary role to the work that aid agencies, governments and civil groups do to disburse supplies and assistance.”

Electronic payment network operators, including Visa, have attempted to improve and streamline aid delivery through the use of electronic payment products, which not only secures the process but extends access to basic financial services to underserved areas.

In 2009, Visa partnered with the National Identity Agency of Pakistan and United Bank Ltd. To distribute aid to refugees fleeing the area as a result of fighting in the country’s Northwest Frontier province. Visa prepaid cards were loaded with $300 and given to refugees, and the partners installed terminals in local businesses to accept payment cards.

“As we come together on World Refugee Day to reflect upon the importance of extending relief to people displaced from their homes due to conflict, natural disasters or persecution, we are encouraged by innovative solutions that can help bring greater transparency and efficiency to aid distribution,” Steinhauer said. “These have the power to provide displaced persons with the dignity and flexibility to obtain the supplies and assistance relevant to their needs, and stimulate the local economy.  As we survey the realm of possibilities, Visa, for one, is excited about the opportunities ahead to better serve those in need.”

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