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Mobile banking helps isolated families recover from Haiyan

Philippines, January 22, 2014

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Typhoon Haiyan affected almost everyone in Bogo, a small fishing village on the northern tip of Cebu Island in the Philippines. People lost their homes and livelihoods. Three months later, recovery is slow as most residents are extremely poor and had little, if any, savings to fall back on. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Nino Francisco, a fisherman, lives in Bogo with his wife and four children. They survived the storm but were devastated when they found their home completely destroyed. Nino cried when he discovered his fishing boat — his livelihood — was also severely damaged. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    After the storm, Nino and his wife Merley gathered the remains of their home that were blown away — metal sheeting, broken boards and nails — so they could patch together a shelter to live in. A week later they had constructed a simple shack with only a sheet for a roof. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Nino was desperate to provide for his family, but he had no money saved to repair his damaged boat. “I have no money. I am poor and I can’t even work now,” he said. Before Haiyan, he earned about 150 pesos ($3 USD) per day — just enough to survive. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Many affected people are in the same situation as Nino – they do not have any money to purchase the things they urgently need. With only 30 pesos (less than $1 USD) to their name, Nino and Merley resorted to using water from the ocean to bathe and wash dishes, and scavenged wood scraps to build fires for cooking. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Without an opportunity to earn income, they could not afford essentials for their family, like water, school fees and medicine for their children. “The food assistance saved our lives in the early days, but it was not enough to help us recover,” Nino said. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    In December 2013, Nino and Merley participated in the pilot phase of our mobile money program. By May 2014, the fully-functioning program will provide 25,000 typhoon-affected families with cash disbursements to help them buy the supplies they need to rebuild their lives. Participating families will receive multiple mobile cash transfers totaling 3,346 pesos ($74 USD). Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mobile customers are notified of transactions by text message. As part of the pilot phase, Nino and Merley received a transfer of 2,000 pesos ($44 USD) to their mobile account. Overjoyed, they immediately discussed what they needed to purchase — supplies for Nino’s fishing boat were at the top of the list. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mobile money — cash transferred and saved through a mobile phone account — is an effective way to provide financial services to people who don’t have access to a brick-and-mortar banking system. For families in remote areas of the Philippines, traveling to far-away bank branches is time consuming and expensive. Instead, mobile money transfers can be traded for cash at BanKO partners in their community. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The money can be used in any way, but most families are using it to buy food, building materials, tools and supplies to restart their livelihoods. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Economic revival is critical to rebuilding after disaster. As emergency aid slows down, cash disbursements help stimulate local markets and give families the freedom to purchase the items they need the most to repair their homes and get back to work. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Half the population of the Philippines earns less than $2 USD per day. Our mobile money program will also focus on helping these vulnerable families access other financial services, like loans and insurance. Over the long-term it will provide thousands of them with their first opportunity to save money securely. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    “I want to thank Mercy Corps for helping us,” said Nino. “We can start to rebuild our lives. Now I can work, I can pay the school fees and we have hope for our children’s future.” Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, rebuilding homes and livelihoods is a top priority for families affected by the storm. And we are scaling up our response to help communities in the country’s most remote locations recover and move forward.

Much of the country’s population, which covers an expanse of 7,000 islands, lacks access to a traditional brick-and-mortar banking system that could offer them local financial help. Mobile banking is a direct way to provide these vulnerable families with the cash assistance they need to get back on their feet.

In the Western, Central and Eastern Visayas regions of the Philippines — some of the hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan — we’ve launched a mobile money program in partnership with BPI Globe BanKO, the country’s first mobile-based bank.

Read the official announcement  ▸

Since 2010 we have been working with BanKO to build the mobile banking program to be an efficient, secure solution to give poor families in remote areas access to financial opportunities.

Nino Francisco and his family experienced the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, but were able to buy the supplies they needed to recover through our mobile money program. Read his story in the photos above.