Digitizing Payments to Ebola Response Workers
  • October 28, 2015

As part of its financial inclusion work, UNCDF has unique experience in supporting payment digitization, including for salaries, pensions, and social benefits. This reduces inefficiencies and improves transparency.

In 2014 during the Ebola crisis, and working closely with UNDP in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNCDF helped national governments and other partners introduce technology for electronic payments and biometric identification, so that emergency workers could be paid reliably and on time. 

UNCDF brought in expertise on using mobile money systems – including with from the Better Than Cash Alliance, which UNCDF houses; our “Mobile Money for the Poor” initiative; and our Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme

There were many moving parts to consider: payment cycles measured in weeks rather than months; the swelling ranks of emergency response workers during each pay cycle; a 20 percent turnover rate in personnel; and the movements of workers to different health centres. 

The programme addressed the key bottleneck of delivery of payments to the last mile, by reinforcing existing payment systems – building on national capacities in payroll, the commercial banking sector, mobile network operators, emergency employment schemes, NGOs, and volunteers. This gave donors, national governments and development partners a better way to deliver payments.

At the peak of the crisis, across the three countries, over 95 percent of registered Ebola workers - approximately 60,000 people - were linked to some form of payment mechanism and were being paid regularly and on time. This meant that emergency response workers could focus on the job at hand, and not worry about from where their next payment will be coming. 

In Sierra Leone, 100 percent of the workers were paid via e-payments, transitioning from 100% cash in November 2014 to 100% mobile money one payment cycle later.