A story out of Reuters says the U.N. will begin sending food vouchers to Iraqi refugees via mobile phone text messages that they can redeem at local shops.
The “virtual vouchers” worth $22 per family every two months will supplement traditional aid which rarely includes perishable goods, WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella said, announcing the pilot project supported by the mobile company MTN.
“They will be able to exchange their electronic vouchers for rice, wheat flour, lentils, chickpeas, oil and canned fish, as well as cheese and eggs — items that cannot usually be included in conventional aid baskets,” she told a Geneva news briefing.
I’m sorry, but do you see something wrong with this? I’m sure I don’t see all the details in the article, but I think there’s something basically wrong with
1) Not having enough money for food, thus needing food aid
2) Having enough money to pay for at least a texting plan
I say #2 that way because I’m not going to assume these refugees have $100/mth calling plans, but more likely old fourth-hand cell phones with texting plans worth a few bucks a month, just to keep in touch with home (give them the benefit of the doubt).
Does anyone have more insight into this story, such as first-hand experience of what a refugee’s life is like? What are these refugees paying for their cell service? Where are they charging up their phones (i.e. how are they paying for electricity)?
On the other hand, I’ve known a few people in the past who have pricey cell plans, but use food stamps or free food pantries. Isn’t that just a fundamentally wrong ordering of priorities?