Statement by WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran On Using New Technology In Fight Against Hunger

Published on 07 December 2009

As hunger reaches unprecedented levels, striking more than a billion people for the first time in history, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is deploying technology in new ways to help get food onto the plates of the hungry, while supporting local markets.

In Syria, we have launched a pilot project for Iraqi refugees who can now use electronic vouchers sent to their mobile phones to exchange for food from local shops. This is a revolutionary idea, with three potential big wins:

1)    Refugees have choices of staples and can procure rations close to their homes.
2)    Local markets are supported, ensuring a better reception for refugees.
3)    Significant cost and time savings are made over traditional heavy ration boxes that must be obtained at central distribution points.

Voucher programmes, such as the one we are piloting in cooperation with the Syrian government, are an innovative and cost-efficient way of reaching people living in cities where food is available but the most vulnerable people are priced out of the market.