Participants of the new pilot project receive text messages which they can "cash" in part or in full at any of 18,000 participating corner stores. Copyright: WFP/Philippines
Families in the Philippines uprooted by disaster have begun receiving text messages which they can cash like checks to buy food. The pilot project makes use of the widespread availability of mobile phones in the Philippines, which is known as the “texting capital of the world”. Watch video
MANILA— The Philippines is one of the most phone-savvy countries in the world, but it’s also prone to violent storms and conflict, which force people from their homes and threaten them with hunger.
In emergencies like these, WFP often helps by setting up “Cash for Work” projects that help uprooted communities get back on their feet. With the cash people earn as they work on rebuilding homes and communities, they can buy the food they need.
Now, in the texting capital of the world, WFP is testing mobile phones as a way of distributing the cash.
“It’s like a digital wallet—almost like a bank account,” said WFP Country Director Stephen Anderson, who explained that giving participants cash in the place of food rations allows them to buy a wider variety of food in a way that favours the local economy.“
Our survey shows that they are spending up to 70–80 per cent of the cash on food,” he added. “We think that’s a good thing.”