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Piloting Humanitarian Biometrics in Yemen

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Aid Transparency versus Violation of Privacy?

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) Brief Points use of biometrics in Yemen is a prime example of challenges related to the use of biometric solutions in humanitarianism. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world and it is deteriorating. More than 24 million people – 80 percent of the population – require some form of assistance, and of those more than 16 million are in acute need.
For one of the major players in the humanitarian field, the WFP, the current emergency response in Yemen is its largest operation. Simultaneously, the WFP is a frontrunner in placing data and digital technologies at the centre of humanitarian operations.
This brief explores the tension between the expanding use of biometrics to increase aid transparency and the respect for privacy.

Brief Points

  • More than 16 million people are food insecure in Yemen and 3.5 million women and children require treatment for acute malnutrition.

  • Political interference, limited access and aid diversion are obstacles to effective distribution of aid in Yemen.

  • Donors are pushing humanitarian actors to introduce biometric solutions to increase efficiency, accountability, and traceability of humanitarian aid.

  • There is a need for balanced approaches to counter fraud and aid diversion while safeguarding the privacy of beneficiaries.