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Bitcoin’s Role in Nepal Aid Efforts

In the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, hundreds of thousands are homeless and the body count is over 7,000, with thousands more missing.

Due to country’s poor infrastructure and logistical challenges, combined with the somewhat slow response of the Nepalese government, many of those in need are still waiting for any kind of aid to reach them. In particular, authorities at the airport in Kathmandu are enforcing standard customs inspections on arriving supplies, a policy that has resulted in a severe bottleneck to the flow of aid into the country.

As such, assistance in any shape is being utilized as a part of ongoing aid efforts. A smaller organization, Charity: Water, has started a relief campaign to raise money for emergency supplies. As their name suggests, they are primarily about providing clean water in places of need, but the company has shifted focus in Nepal in an attempt to help get food and shelter to earthquake victims.

Other less conventional aid efforts come from a handful of Bitcoin community members who have given donations to be used for the payment of food, medical care, temporary housing, and transport.

One charity in particular, See Change Foundation, is set up to accept Bitcoin donations via BitPay. The foundation received over 100 Bitcoin donations, in varying amounts, within the first 36 hours. This Nepal-based charity is using this to pay for temporary housing for some of the many whose homes where destroyed.

See Change founder Erik Bouchard says, “Bitcoin has shown unbelievable promise for our work. We posted a note of what we did with the first US$30 in Bitcoin donations to r/bitcoin [reddit] and over US$2,000 came in from website donations.”

Another foundation, BitGive, is using Bitcoin donations to support Medic Mobile’s efforts in Nepal. This organization uses mobile technology to help medical workers communicate and collect essential data—something that will prove crucial to reaching more remote areas outside of Kathmandu, where less is known about the condition of those who are homeless or injured.

Even major aid organizations such as the American Red Cross are also accepting Bitcoin donations through ChangeTip, yet another site that facilitates the transfer of Bitcoin, no matter how large or small the amount.

While these donations might not yet amount to much in total, the potential that they demonstrate for donating to those in need can prove to be somewhat of a game changer, highlighting the expanding roles that both cryptocurrency and technology can play in the event of disaster.

“They are just scratching the surface of the potential for this technology, but we are hoping that the volume of donations and the money raised gets them thinking about the opportunities to leverage this technology not only in raising funds for relief but for distributing relief,” says Kyle Kemper of ChangeTip.

H/T: Coindesk