HUMANITARIAN USE OF BIOMETRIC SCANNERS
Restoring lost documentation to prove identity,
access assistance and reconnect families
The Red Cross and Red Crescent partnered with a financial institution and the United Nations in Jordan to improve access to humanitarian assistance for refugees fleeing regional conflicts. Iris scanners embedded in ATMs expedited the delivery of cash for food and other basic needs; eliminated the need for ID cards, vouchers and security codes; and reduced fraud and duplication issues. After a streamlined, biometrics-enabled registration process, families received SMS messages instructing them on how to access the assistance at their convenience.
Our exploration in this area continues: the Red Cross and Red Crescent is partnering with biometric technology leaders to improve the identification and registration experience for disaster survivors, refugees and other vulnerable and stressed populations. We are hosting additional focus groups to collect their feedback, hear their ideas and inform future hardware, software and process adaptations. We plan to publish our recommendations before the end of the year.
Below is more detail on priorities driven by community demand in the Dialogue.
Statement of Need
It is very common for families and businesses to lose personal documentation, such as identification, proof of residence or home ownership, insurance policies, and medical records, in an emergency. It is also nearly impossible to start the recovery process without this documentation. Even after government services and businesses have resumed, they may not reissue the documentation without proof of identity. Under these circumstances, disaster survivors can be left in limbo for months or years. Additionally, sudden disasters can cause families to become separated. Sometimes just across town and others across borders. Not knowing where your loved ones are, if they are OK and when you will be able to reconnect can be incredibly painful. When the lack of communication and transportation makes it challenging for families to connect in emergencies, they turn to the Red Cross for assistance. As people arrive at shelters, refugee camps and other safe places, they register their location and the Red Cross can consult multiple databases and resources to locate missing loved ones.
Solar-powered kiosks, at which people scan their fingers, palms and/or eyes using biometric technology. In non-disaster times, the machines dispense cash like ATMs, and in emergencies, they can also be used to retrieve personal documents from the cloud storage and print replacement identification and other important documents (similar to self-service boarding pass kiosks at the airport). They may also be used to collect grants to restart businesses and locate family members who may have registered with the Red Cross or another trusted organization. The kiosks would be owned and maintained by private businesses, such as financial institutions, or government agencies, and individuals could access them at no charge in emergency situations.