U.N. turns to crowdfunding app to help feed Syrian refugee children

The World Food Programme's new global crowdfunding app, ShareTheMeal, initially aims to raise enough money to feed 20,000 Syrian refugee children in Jordan.

Story highlights

  • The World Food Programme has launched a mobile app to boost fundraising
  • ShareTheMeal allows iOS and Android users to donate $0.50 through their phones
  • The initial round of fundraising aims to feed 20,000 Syrian refugee children in Jordan

(CNN)The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is hoping a newly-launched mobile crowdfunding app will help it overcome a funding shortfall and feed 20,000 Syrian children who have taken refuge from the country's four-year civil war in Jordan.

ShareTheMeal, released on Thursday, allows users to donate $0.50 -- enough money to meet the nutritional needs of a child for one day -- through their smartphone.
Devised as a way to meet the challenges of an increasingly large funding shortfall, the idea was conceived by a group of young WFP staff who wanted a way to better engage millennials.
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    "Young people want to be involved and millennials are a demographic that WFP hasn't really engaged with in the past. But clearly their support is key if we are to reach our goal of achieving zero hunger in fifteen years," said Gerald Bourke, a spokesman for the WFP in New York.

    ShareTheMeal

    The ShareTheMeal app can be downloaded on iOS and Android smartphones
    Developed by a start-up in Berlin, the app can be downloaded on iOS and Android smartphones and is designed to give people a quick and easy way to help feed refugees when they sit down for their own meals.
    "People use their smartphones to buy books, groceries and to pay their rent, so why not use it as a means to help other people?" said Sebastian Stricker, one of the developers of the ShareTheMeal app. "We can move fundraising into the 21st century."
    WFP believes that ShareTheMeal's global roll out will provide an instant boost to fundraising efforts, after a successful trial of the technology in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in June this year helped the agency's efforts to feed children in Africa
    "In those German speaking countries, 120,000 people downloaded the app and we raised $850,000," said Bourke. "Thanks to that we were able to provide 1.7 million school meal to children in Lesotho."
    Although WFP has plans to use the app more widely in the future, Bourke said the initial global launch will be a "narrowly focused" campaign that aims to raise enough money to to feed 20,000 Syrian children in two refugee camps in Jordan -- a country that presently provides asylum to more than 750,000 Syrian refugees, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

    Feeding Syria

    There is no end in sight to the four-year Syrian civil war, which has so far killed more than 300,000 people and forced 10.6 million out of their homes.
    The WFP presently provides support to four million of these people in Syria, along with more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees who have taken asylum in neighboring countries.
    As an entirely voluntarily funded UN organization, much of the bill for WFP operations is footed by world governments. However the agency regularly faces funding shortfalls and was forced to temporarily suspend its regional food voucher program in December last year following a funding crisis that left it $64 million short. The program was reinstated a week later after an emergency WFP appeal raised $88 million in just ten days.
    Bourke said the Syria operation costs around $2 billion a year, meaning the agency must raise $25 million every week to keep the program going.
    "Donors have been very generous, they continue to be very generous. The problem is that the needs just keep outpacing the resources available to meet those needs," he said.
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