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Eyeing a More Secure Future for Refugees


If the eyes are the window to the soul, could irises be the key that unlocks one’s identity? 

The Anglo-Jordanian technology company IrisGuard thinks so. Its iris-scanning software and financial platform are being used by humanitarian agencies to authenticate the identities of refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria—enabling them to receive food, cash-based assistance, medical treatment, and remittances. This has the potential to transform the delivery of refugee aid, which is often siphoned off by corruption, identity theft, and lack of reliable networks. 

Already, 2.7 million refugees from 79 nationalities in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt have been registered through IrisGuard, which is an IFC client. They now use their eyes to buy food and other essentials at about 200 merchants. The technology is 10 times more accurate than fingerprint analysis. 

“Our EyeCloud platform has the potential to help lift vulnerable people out of poverty and contribute to economic development throughout the Middle East, Africa, and the rest of the world,” says IrisGuard co-founder Imad Malhas. 

The firm will expand its reach this year by introducing a mobile version of its platform. 

Irisguard is part of a new wave of private companies helping to create economic opportunities for refugees and their host communities. A new report from IFC—Private Sector and Refugees: Pathways to Scale—found that in places like Jordan, Kenya, and Pakistan, private firms are providing refugees and locals with jobs, skills training, and financial services, offering hope to those caught up in one of the worst humanitarian crises in human history. 

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