Haiti: First mobile phone cash transfers facilitate UN-backed home rebuilding

1 March 2012

Survivors of the 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti have this week started receiving cash subsidies through the first-ever mobile money transfer system in support of post-disaster housing reconstruction, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported today.

More than 2,000 mobile money transfers are planned in the next three months to 1,000 low-income families receiving subsidies totalling $500 to purchase construction materials such as cement, iron and wood at selected project-certified stores.

The initiative is part of the ‘Community Support Centres for House Repairs,’ a partnership between UNDP and the Government of Haiti.

Commissioned by UNDP and developed by Digicel, one of the country’s largest cell phone service providers, the mobile telephone cash transfers are helping boost financial inclusion in Haiti, where nearly two-thirds of the population has access to mobile phones, but only 10 per cent have bank accounts.

Beneficiaries can also access a mobile phone checking account, which is a safer method of keeping cash, reduces financial transaction costs, improves users’ ability to save and helps bring more people into the formal financial sector.

“Mobile phone vouchers create additional security and convenience here in Haiti, especially for women, who might feel more vulnerable when carrying large sums of money,” said Jessica Faieta, Senior UNDP Country Director for Haiti. She stressed that more than 40 per cent of Haitian households are led by women.

“With safer housing conditions, this initiative will also encourage the permanent return of camp residents to their neighbourhoods and repaired homes,” she added.

The Support Centres, known locally by their French acronym as CARMEN, have been empowering quake-affected communities in Port-au-Prince and the western town of Léogâne to directly take charge of house repairs, with engineering assessments and construction training.

Four thousand families have already registered to participate in the project, benefiting 12,000 people. Five thousand participants have been trained in construction techniques and 2,000 damaged houses have already been evaluated, according to UNDP.


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