Money transfers made easy in Philippines’ typhoon devastated city

People participating in UNDP’s emergency employment scheme test an easier and safer way to get paid for helping to clear their city of mountains of debris left by super storm Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Mary Ann Arandia
Barangay 64, Tacloban City: Mary Ann Arandia (right) saved the money she earned during UNDP's emergency employment. She uses it little by little to provide for her family. (Photo: UNDP/Lesley Wright)

Life has been difficult for Mary Ann Arandia since Typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan) hit in November leaving behind a staggering amount of debris and destruction.

“I felt helpless,” she said. “I felt like I was going to die, that we would not be able to survive.”

Highlights

  • UNDP’s emergency employment initiative provide needed income to families affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan);
  • 5,000 people taking part in UNDP’s emergency employment scheme test mobile phone cash transfers;
  • This pilot mobile phone payment system is made possible through a partnership between UNDP, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) and mobile phone operator Smart Communications (SMART).

When the storm subsided, Arandia and her young family took stock. Barangay 64 in Tacloban City was under a pile of debris; its gymnasium was a twisted puzzle of metal rafters.

The hairdressing salon where Arandia’s husband worked was gone along with the families’ income. So when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) offered emergency employment to clear debris, she and her husband jumped at the chance.

UNDP’s emergency employment initiative not only provided Arandia’s family with the daily income needed to keep going, but it became an opportunity she had never had before.

Mary Ann Arandia
Tacloban City: Mary Ann Arandia uses the ATM for the first time in her life. (Photo: UNDP/Anna Mae Lamentillo


“I was able to learn how to use an ATM because before I didn’t know how to use it,” she said. “I finally had an ATM.”

Arandia is one of 5,000 participants in the effort to test mobile phone cash transfers to people taking part in UNDP’s emergency employment scheme. The transfers are expected to make payments easier and safer.

“The first thing I did was a balance inquiry (via text message) and the UNDP will text me if there is the money in the ATM. Then we’ll go to the LANDBANK to get the money,” Arandia said.

This pilot mobile phone payment system is made possible through a partnership between UNDP, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) and mobile phone operator Smart Communications (SMART).

Participants including Arandia received one mobile phone with a SMART pre-paid card and a bank account with an ATM card.  UNDP pays their emergency employment wage directly into their bank accounts at which time a text message is sent to inform the account holders.

“This mobile cash transfer system provides access to financial services among the poor and vulnerable who have not been using banks at all,” said Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative.

This pilot is part of a much wider early recovery programme that UNDP is now rolling out across the areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda  in November 2013, which affected 14.1 million people and left 4 million displaced in the Visayas region of the Philippines. Over the next three years, UNDP’s wider programme will focus on supporting the poorest and most vulnerable to recover from this crisis. The programme will remove debris, and help recover livelihoods and basic government services, while looking to strengthen people’s resilience against future disasters.      

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