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Blockchain technology has seen increasing support in the aid sector as a means of delivering financial assistance in place of traditional in-kind support, especially among the unbanked. The technology has potential to address existing pain points of traditional cash and voucher assistance (CVA), now widely accepted as the most dignified and appropriate form of humanitarian assistance.

In the Unblocked Cash pilot, Oxfam investigated whether blockchain can reduce the cost and transaction time of CVA, while improving transparency, security, and overall user experience in Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu.

Oxfam worked with private sector partners Sempo and Consensys to distribute 966,443 Vanuatu Vatu to 187 households and 29 vendors via the Ethereum token DAI, ‘wrapped’ in a Crypto Collateralized Voucher and issued near-field communication cards designed for low-connectivity environments as a means of payment for goods through a local vendor network.

The pilot demonstrated modest cost and time savings related to operational activities including a reduction in recipient enrolment time to an average of 3.6 minutes per individual compared to over an hour during previous cash assistance programmes. Additionally, the tested system eliminated slow identity verifications and reduced dependency on post offices or banks to deposit cheques and/or withdraw cash.

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