U.N. crowdfunding app helps feed Syrian refugees

On Thursday, the United Nations World Food Programme released a new crowdfunding app in order to help feed Syrian children in Jordanian refugee camps.

ShareTheMeal, available for iPhone and Android smartphones, encourages users to “share their meals” with these young refugees by donating as little as $0.50, enough to feed a child for one day.  Those who log in to the app through Facebook can even compare their charity efforts to those of their Facebook friends — a special gamification feature which could prompt people to increase their contributions.

“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 ShareTheMeal. “We can move fundraising into the 21st century.”

Stricker and Bernhard Kowatsch, two managers of the World Food Programme, began working on the app in 2014.  During its first run in June, ShareTheMeal produced promising results: 120,000 users from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland collectively provided 1.7 million meals for children in need in Lesotho.

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As of Friday, one day after ShareTheMeal’s global launch, over 100,000 active users had donated 1 million meals through the app.  Officials are hopeful that alleviating hunger and improving living conditions in refugee camps throughout the Middle East will discourage Syrians from attempting the perilous migration to Europe.

“By Christmas, we hope to have gathered enough shared meals, to feed these children for one year,” said Massimiliano Costa, ShareTheMeal’s head of growth.   

While the initial global launch has been focused on the 20,000 Syrian children in two Jordanian refugee camps, the World Food Programme hopes to expand to other countries and regions in 2016.  The project is pursuant to the United Nation’s goal to eradicate world hunger by 2030.  

“Young people want to be involved and millennials are a demographic that WFP [the World Food Programme] 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 World Food Programme in New York.

 

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