Merkur.io, field-ready and secure payment network

September 20th, 2018 Posted by Blockchain, Emergency, ICT4D, Refugees, software development 0 comments on “Merkur.io, field-ready and secure payment network”

At the beginning of 2018, Gnucoop and Merkur.io started a collaboration for providing a cash and voucher platform to NGOs and Humanitarian Agencies.

Merkur.io is a secure digital payment platform capable of turning humanitarian voucher fairs into a fraud free, rapid and effective experience to NGOs, merchants and humanitarian assistance right holders (beneficiaries).

Merkur.io handles Humanitarian Voucher Fairs through crypto-currencies, using  safe and efficient payment methods. Our network extends to remote and offline areas to deploy the system with solar power and paper QR codes, allowing for  reinforced security measures.

Cash based assistance in particular humanitarian voucher fairs have made humanitarian assistance faster and more efficient.

Case Study: Cash Distribution in Libya

In certain remote and marginalized areas in countries, such as Libya, international staff are prohibited entry.

E-vouchers are the only possible method to provide salaries and reimbursements to the local staff, who are responsible for both implementing the activities and monitoring the cash distribution in these areas.

Project description

Libya is notorious for its political instability that restricts, and under some circumstances, denies the civilian population access to fundamental rights, such as healthcare and education. Thousands of people do not have access to health care and medication is scarce. The Ministry of Health recently reported that only 60% of Libyan hospitals are partially or completely in operation; the majority of the country’s medical personnel have fled the country, and the few remaining doctors lack the tools and resources to work safely. A recent analysis of the capacity of the Libyan health sector, promoted by the World Health Organization, shows that out of a total of 1656 health facilities, 17% of hospitals and 20.1% of first aid centers are not functioning.

Helpcode intervention promotes an emergency intervention service in the Fezzan region, in the province of Ubari, within 4 health centers. The Helpcode objective is to improve health services for vulnerable groups, including both residents and migrants. Since long ago, Libyan authorities have neglected the Region of Fezzan: even today, the site remains largely marginalized within the national territory.

In the province of Ubari alone there are about 20,000 individuals in need of humanitarian assistance. The most vulnerable groups are those comprised of internally displaced people: wherein Al-Aweinat, Ghat, Murzu, Sabah and Tuyuri 4,000 can be found. The additional 8,000 people that have returned to their homes are also identified as vulnerable.

Helpcode collaborates with Terre des Hommes and STACO, one of the most important and structured Libyan NGOs, to rehabilitate health centers, distribute medicines and medical material, and train specialized health personnel.

This intervention is part of an initiative in Libya that is led by Italian Cooperation. In October of 2016, Italian Cooperation concluded an agreement with the area representatives to allow for the sending of emergency aid to hospitals located in all five provinces of the Fezzan.

Blockchain solution

As we have said, health facilities have been severely damaged or destroyed, and medicine and drugs are in short supply. Only 60% of hospitals are in operation and rely entirely on WHO for the procurement of essential drugs. Most of the medical personnel have fled the country, and the doctors who have remained have no diagnostic tools or resources to work safely. There are no nurses, midwives, nor technicians.

In total, the remote areas in Al-Aweinat, Ghat, Murzu, Sabah, and Tuyuri encompass 90,000 people in need of help, of whom 40,000 are internally displaced. At least one-third of these are children.

The longer this crisis continues, the greater the number of people in need of care, thereby increasing the demand for medical services and drugs.

Blockchain technology is used for sending money. Money to support medical and nursing staff. Since traditional money transfers are impossible in Libya, we use Blockchain technology.

The mechanism for sending funds is relatively simple. Though, the behind-the-scenes work uses innovative technology.

Beneficiaries are identified (e.g. medical and nursing staff)

An individual manages and distributes the funds to the beneficiaries (by receiving “merkur”, the cryptocurrency used for this transfer, and converting the sum into dinars)

Merchants use mobile phones for SMS data recording, and print receipts when connected to WIFI.

How does it work?

The beneficiary (doctor, nurse, obstetrician, etc.) is entered into our system. He/she sends an SMS to request funds.

The request is checked with a security procedure and is approved.

The distribution manager and the beneficiaries are notified of its approval.

The final beneficiaries collect their money from the person in charge of distribution.

Guaranteed monitoring and transparency:

Double data control

Real-time monitoring of financial exposure

Each transaction and its data are cryptographically stored

Everything is monitored by the Helpcode staff through the http://merkur.io/ platform.

Merkur.io has a cloud platform where the Helpcode staff can check all the data in real time:

purchases, average expenses, products, quantities, every expense a beneficiary makes, every transaction carried out by the person in charge of the distribution of the dinars, etc.

The platform also assists in creating graphic representations of the data, making for more thorough analyses.

Picture: Food distribution South Sudan – Maban County

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