11/01/2013 02:43 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2013

Syrian Refugees To Get Prepaid 'Debit Cards' To Buy Groceries Instead Of Packaged Meals

Syrian refugees will soon be able to shop in supermarkets like any other customer instead of waiting on tireless lines for food rations.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is preparing to roll out its E-cards -- preloaded with $27 per person, each month -- that will function like debit cards. They will allow refugees to shop in markets for food, instead of having to retrieve packaged meals with their paper vouchers, the agency recently announced.

“The new E-card provides a greater sense of normality and convenience,” said Jay Aldous, WFP Director Private Sector in a UN video. “It allows them to go into a supermarket and purchase the products they want –- when they want.”

WFP is developing the program with support from Mastercard and hopes to hand them out to 800,000 refugees living in Lebanon by the end of the year, according to Mashable. It plans on bringing the cards to Jordan next.

There are more than 800,000 Syrian "persons of concern" living in Lebanon and more than 500,000 in Jordan, according to UNHCR.

In addition to bringing a sense of normalcy to refugees’ lives, the card will also help boost local economies and cut down on fraud, because the E-cards are much easier to track than paper vouchers.

"We know where they are, we know who they are," Bettina Luescher, World Food Programme's chief spokesperson for North America, told Mashable."It's not as complicated as it might sound."



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