In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an immunization worker prepares to receive her salary via her mobile wallet. Credit: WHO
Africa’s campaign to stop polio and other diseases has a more stable and motivated workforce, as WHO works with countries and partners to pay frontline health workers by mobile phone instead of cash.
“More than 80% of employees say they prefer digital payments,” said Ahmed Hamani Djibo, head of WHO’s digital finance team.
The WHO has been among the first international organizations to move away from the clumsy and unsafe practice of paying salaries in cash. Over the past few years, the organization has established a digital finance team and joined the Better Than Cash Alliance, an 80-member United Nations partnership tasked with developing the digitization of payments and expanding financial inclusion – supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals activities.
Since its establishment in 2020, the WHO Digital Finance Team has designed and implemented digital payment solutions in 24 countries in Africa, including in Benin, Botswana, Madagascar, Rwanda, Togo and Zimbabwe last year.
“WHO has successfully digitized payments for more than 2 million health workers in Africa,” said Tidhar Wald, Managing Director of the BCH Alliance. “With these encouraging results, WHO is accelerating the digital transformation of health outcomes delivery globally. plays a clear leadership role.”
Polio immunization teams in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.Image source: World Health Organization
“The speed difference is really big”
Workers surveyed in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Tanzania said they appreciated the security of not carrying cash, the convenience of no longer having to travel to a payment location to collect wages and, most importantly, the speed of payment – as little as half an hour after the job was done, rather than Wait weeks or even months.
These surveys, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, link timely pay to better morale and employee retention.
“There is really a big difference in speed,” Jean-Luc, a health worker in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said in an interview after a polio immunization campaign. “We finished cleaning up the campaign yesterday and got the text notification the next night. I have my kids’ school fees to pay. Now we can relax.”
Digital payments also save health campaign organizers time and money, including the burden and expense of transporting large amounts of cash and filling out paperwork.
“When you have 300 to 500 volunteers who need to be paid, it takes a lot of time to do the accounting and sign the receipts,” said Saidi, who heads the polio team in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WHO is first using the new digital payment method in a polio immunization campaign in Côte d’Ivoire. Although vaccine-induced polio outbreaks are increasing, vaccination campaigns have struggled to roll out. In the first quarter of 2020, almost half of the polio campaigns in the WHO African Region were postponed, staff withdrew or suffered other adverse impacts due to delays in cash disbursements.
As WHO and partners work on developing the nuts and bolts of a digital payments ecosystem (registering staff into databases, verifying their profiles with mobile network operators, etc.), the benefits of a cashless approach become even more apparent.
Maria May, senior program officer for financial inclusion at the Gates Foundation, said: “There is overwhelming evidence that digital payments can support people, especially women, in accessing financial services and increasing control over their income.” For four years, the World Health Organization Leverage the growing use of mobile money across Africa to ensure brave frontline vaccinators during the polio outbreak are paid in full, quickly and securely. “
Alain Labrick, Director of the Department of Digital Health and Innovation at WHO, said, “Digital payments are one of the key pillars of digital health public infrastructure strongly encouraged in WHO Member States’ guidance on digital transformation.” WHO will Digital payments as well as data exchange and digital identity infrastructure are seen as the basis for more digital development activities. He added, “We are delighted to collaborate with our partners in the digital sector and contribute our part to the event celebrating WHO joining the Better Than Cash Alliance”.