Improving the lives of Palestine refugees and promoting dignity in Jordan through the new e-card programme

27 May 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo by Jacopo Intini

Dozens of Palestine refugees are gathered in the yard of Husn distribution centre, holding their ration cards and canvas bags while waiting to receive their food rations – a routine start for a food distribution day. On a quarterly basis, Palestine refugees registered under the UNRWA Social Safety Net Programme (SSNP) receive basic food commodities and cash subsidies. In 2015, some 58,729 Palestine refugees in Jordan benefited from the SSNP, which focuses on the ‘abject poor’ – those who cannot meet their basic food needs. 

However, the introduction of a new e-card programme, effective 1 April 2016, will drastically improve the way that beneficiaries receive this support. Through the new programme, UNRWA aims to provide a more dignified and empowering experience for Palestine refugees by giving abject-poor beneficiaries the flexibility to choose food items based on their unique needs. 

The new programme replaces the previous modality for providing in-kind food and cash assistance to families eligible for SSNP assistance with electronic payment cards (‘e-cards’) that can be used at designated grocery stores. The new system provides beneficiaries with the choice to purchase food items according to their unique needs from selected local markets rather than receiving direct food aid. In addition, the cards include an allocation of cash that can be withdrawn from designated Jordan Ahli Bank ATMs for the family to use at their discretion.

“I definitely prefer using the E-Card, because I will be completely free to purchase my food needs,” says Hiba Ahmad, a widowed mother of three boys and two girls living in Husn camp in Jordan. She adds that she feels blessed to receive this assistance: “It is great to have the method of assistance improved to become easier and more dignified for all of us.”

Sulaiman Abu-Najj, a father of five who also resides in Husn camp, agrees. Unable to work due to his epilepsy, he has benefited from UNRWA assistance under the SSNP for many years. Although he has not yet tried the e-card, Abu-Najj said he is looking forward to it.
“I prefer the new way of assistance; it is easier and we can pay for other food needs besides the essential ones,” he says.