Whether saving lives, alleviating suffering, or maintaining and protecting human dignity, humanitarian assistance can be a lifeline for those in need. During and after man-made crises and natural disasters, people band together with a common goal of helping the victims and supporting reconstruction. However, all too often this well-intended generosity fails to reach victims.
The Handbook of Good Practices, released by Transparency International, states that an overwhelming increase of corruption in these unfortunate circumstance is not surprising, aid is often delivered in extreme and challenging environments. “The injection of large amounts of resources into poor economies, where institutions may have been damaged or destroyed, can exaggerate power imbalances and increase opportunities for corruption.”
Bureaucratic hurdles, opportunistic thieves, and a desire to provide immediate relief are all problems when humanitarian aid is provided. However, blockchain technology solutions are emerging can help with the disbursement of financial aid, and a lack of transparency.
The underlying technology behind Bitcoin can help transfer funds directly, securely, and at significantly lower cost. It also shows each and every transaction and where the funds go, which everyone can see. There are many companies attempting to leverage these characteristics, in just as many different ways.
The Indian northeast monsoon season happens over November and December each year. As of the Dec 10, the heavy rainfalls this year have resulted in more than 400 deaths, and at least 1.8m people have been displaced. The damages are currently estimated between US$3b to US$15b.
An Indian based bitcoin wallet company, Unocoin, is taking action. The company recently started a campaign for relief donations, and announced that it will give 25 percent of the transaction fees generated through the platform this month to the Flood Relief Fund.
The Flood Relief Fund started on the crowdfunding site GlobalGiving, and provides the people of Chennai and Cuddalore with emergency supplies, such as food, water and medicine.
Unocoin has assigned a dedicated wallet address to the fund, which has an auto-sell feature. Once activated, the account will automatically sell at the current market price. The corresponding Indian rupees are then delivered to a nominated bank account.
Since the 11th of December the Flood Relief Fund has received 14 transactions, from Unocoin, which will contribute to the current total of just over US$249,000. However, specifics regarding the disbursement of funds do not appear to be available. According to the site, donors will receive feedback as to how their funds are used.
BitGive is also providing support to philanthropic endeavours. Since Connie Gallippi founded the group in 2013, they have helped Stop Ebola, Save the Children, and The Water Project in Western Africa, and also became the first 501(c)(3) Bitcoin nonprofit charity.
The charity recently announced a second collaboration with The Water Project, to support projects in western Kenya. Focusing on the inherent benefits provided by the blockchain, and taking it one step further than Unocoin's admirable efforts, the partnership is the initial pilot of a “Donation Transparency Platform,” using blockchain technology.
“We may not be able to stop natural disasters from happening, curb severe weather events, or solve all the problems of corruption around the globe, but we can implement a new system using the most innovative technology available today.”
- BitGive Foundation
Plug and Play Tech Center, BitPesa and the Factom Foundation will also be contributing to the Bitcoin Charity 2.0 Initiative, in the hopes of creating an all new donation experience, and strengthen donor trust.
Elizabeth Rossiello, the CEO and Co-Founder of BitPesa, is excited to be part of a project that will show the ease and efficiency of digital currency transfers in emerging markets. "The cost of fraud and inefficient spending of funds is real, so direct payment and transfer methods that track spending and use from end-to-end are a great solution,” she said.
In the future, when BitGive and The Water Project collect donor funds, they will be recorded in an immutable Factom data chain, that links those particular funds to their designated project. Peter Chasse, The Water Project President, believes that blockchain technology and Bitcoin present an incredible opportunity to dramatically lower costs when transmitting funds to countries such as Kenya. “At the same time, it can also enable a shift to real-time, end-to-end transparency into how nonprofits like ours put donations to good use.”
BitPesa converts bitcoin to local currency, and will disburse the funds by either using Mobile Money or a nominated local bank account. “BitPesa settles customer transactions in real-time for one-third the cost of other payment methods,” explains a Factom blog.
“We can’t stop individuals from misusing funds, but now we can easily tell who did and when. We are bringing some clarity and honesty to where funds go.”
- Peter Kirby, President of the Factom Foundation
Tackling the issues with donations from the opposite end, Bitnation Governance 2.0 will also be using bitcoin and blockchain technology, in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Refugees have been flooding into neighbouring countries to escape the violence in recent years. According the the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, surrounding countries are “approaching a dangerous saturation point.”
“The current refugee crisis has left many without a home, identification and more. Opening a bank account is often impossible, sending money to family scattered around Europe is difficult and expensive, and procuring daily necessities is also a struggle for many.”
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General stated in September this year, that suffering has reached heights not seen in a generation. “One hundred million people require immediate humanitarian assistance. At least 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes or their countries. The United Nations has asked for nearly $20 billion to meet this year’s needs – six times the level of a decade ago.”
The initiative is designed to support the Bitnation Refugee Emergency Response (BRER) Humanitarian Aid Project in Europe, by giving refugees and the Stateless a Bitnation Bitcoin Visa Debit Card (BVDC). Donors are then able to use the blockchain to send money directly to a specific individual.
Donating €12 to Bitnation will provide one refugee with a BVDC, providing the recipient with access to funds from ATMs, as well as the opportunity to shop in regular stores and make online purchases. “It works like a regular Visa debit card, the only difference being that it’s charged by Bitcoin, which does not require a bank account to set up,” states Bitnation.
As the BRER is a Humanitarian Aid Project, additional Bitcoin donations will be distributed to BVDC cardholders. Using Bitcoin technology to load the card allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to directly assist the holder of the card.
Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, Bitnation CEO and Founder disclosed to BraveNewCoin in a previous interview, “We would like to turn it into a form of rudimentary ‘basic income’ where people can just donate BTC directly to people > to the cards - and they can use it to pay for day-to-day necessities, rather than relying on aid organizations for food donations and the likes. It would give people some sense of human dignity, even while in a difficult situation.”