Visa, Oxfam and UnionBank bring payments solution to disaster-affected communities

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Oxfam, Visa, UnionBank, and i2c, a provider of integrated payments and commerce solutions, have teamed up in the Philippines to create the Electronic Prepaid Solution (EPS) project, a simple and efficient platform that addresses the challenges in humanitarian “cash transfer programmes.”

Through the EPS project, a beneficiary identified by Oxfam is issued an EPS card, which is credited with a fixed amount that can be withdrawn from bank automated teller machines (ATMs) and partner remittance centers. It can also be used for over-the-counter purchases at local merchants and for purchases through a mobile store set up 20 kilometers from the city.

The program has proven that the Oxfam Visa Prepaid Card is more than just a payment tool that enables beneficiaries to purchase everyday items conveniently and securely,” stated Stuart Tomlinson, Visa country manager for the Philippines and Guam.

It also ushers many of the beneficiaries into the formal financial system, helping them develop life-enhancing financial skills. This project is a great example of how the world’s largest payments technology company and the world’s leading humanitarian organization harness our collective resources to innovate and overcome financial challenges during disasters,”

Together with Metrobank Card, i2c, PhilPost, MLhuiller and local merchants, the EPS was tested in Tacloban City, Leyte and in the municipalities of San Sebastian, San Jorge and Catbalogan City in Western Samar, areas affected by super typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Since December 2014, 2,700 prepaid cards have been issued, with a total of USD 188,023 transferred to beneficiaries.

“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,” explained Justin Morgan, country director for Oxfam’s Philippines programme.

”This is just the beginning. 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.” 

Participating merchants said that the common items bought by beneficiaries included water, sanitation and hygiene items, food, and medicine. Beneficiaries said they saved some of the money as their “disaster emergency fund” and as investment, which dispels the myth that poor people are not ready for the banking system.

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