Visa Prepaid Cards Funnel Into Disaster Relief Regions

Oxfam and payments industry giant Visa are joining together with two other firms to bring funds via prepaid cards to people in disaster-torn regions.

Along with Philippines-based UnionBank and the payments company i2c, Visa and Oxfam have launched the new prepaid card program in an effort to bypass safety concerns and logistical issues surrounding the transport and handling of money. The relationship between Oxfam and Visa dates back to 2013, in the aftermath of the super typhoon known as Haiyan. The two companies worked together on the Electronic Prepaid Solution (EPS), a project designed to get funding to families who have lost everything.

Under the terms of the program, announced on Wednesday (Aug. 26), Oxfam is offering up EPS cards that are credited with a fixed amount of money that can be taken safely from ATMs and remittance centers located in certain countries. The funds can also be used for purchases termed “over the counter” and with local businesses in the Philippines.

The two companies said the prepaid system has been used since last year in places that were directly hit by super typhoon Haiyan, and 2,700 cards holding nearly $190,000  were issued. Purchases included water, food and medicine. And, noted the companies, some recipients saved the cards as a “disaster emergency fund” and as investments to hold.

Justin Morgan, an Oxfam country director based in the Philippines, said in a statement: “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,” the director noted. “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.”

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