Urgent tech solution gets rapid relief funds to Ukraine families
The rapid bulk upload solution reduces payment processing time from approx.. 3 minutes per beneficiary to an upload file of up to 1000 beneficiaries being processed and uploaded in just 30 seconds.
Combined with Save the Children’s efficient beneficiary data collection, Save the Children are now able to send secure bank-to-bank payments to reach beneficiary bank accounts within just 24 hours.
Allows Save the Children to hugely increase in spending in Ukraine and surrounding countries. Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine Save the Children was spending USD 3m in Ukraine. Total 2022 spend in Ukraine and surrounding countries is now forecast to be over USD 110m.
Enabling the strategic objectives
Heavy fighting, shelling and air strikes across Ukraine have had devastating consequences for children and their families. The Russian invasion has put over 7.5 million children across Ukraine in grave danger of physical harm and severe emotional distress. Two-thirds of children have had to flee their homes to escape the fighting.
But it’s not just the immediate impact of the war in Ukraine on children and their families that’s a concern for Save the Children; it’s putting the futures of those children in jeopardy too. Air strikes and explosions have damaged schools and hospitals, which will make it harder for them to get the long-term health care and education they need and deserve. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, within eleven weeks of the Russian invasion starting, over 1250 education institutions had been damaged or completely destroyed. As in any crisis worldwide, children without parents or guardians are at increased risk of abuse, exploitation, trafficking and neglect.
A problem they didn’t know they had
When Save the Children responded to the humanitarian needs of families in Ukraine, they were faced with an unusual challenge. Unlike many of the countries in which they operate (such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria), in which only a small percentage of the population has access to a bank account, Ukraine has a fully developed banking system and infrastructure.
One of Save the Children’s initial responses in crises such as these is to distribute physical cash – but in this situation, in which the families they were helping had bank accounts, they quickly realised that the most secure and efficient way to help beneficiaries in the first instance was to leverage the country’s developed banking infrastructure to deposit funds directly into their bank accounts.
Prior to the Russian invasion, Save the Children was programming USD 3 million a year in Ukraine. To service this, they had a very small team in Ukraine who had been processing beneficiary payments manually and through partners. Due to the relatively low amount of programme spend, connecting the local team to Save the Children’s central bulk payment processes hadn’t previously been a priority. Under their existing process, the finance team would track the names of everyone who needed to receive funds in an excel spreadsheet, and these details would then need to be manually keyed into the local bank’s online banking platform. It was a slow, labour-intensive process and, like all manual processes, was prone to error.
Suddenly, the small finance team in Ukraine was being inundated with requests to make payments to vast numbers of refugees. Save the Children knew the existing process couldn’t scale quickly enough to meet the demands of the tens of thousands of people who now urgently needed to receive funds.
There was talk of needing to hire/second in from elsewhere in Save the Children a large number of new staff to be able to meet the new demand. This just wasn’t viable. Save the Children knew there had to be a better way to dramatically ramp up their response. They approached their banking partner, Raiffeisen Bank in Ukraine, to explore what it would take to make bulk uploads into their electronic banking portal. When they received the bulk upload file specs from the bank, Save the Children quickly realised the high level of file conversion complexity was technically beyond the scope of their internal team.
Rapid relief to tens of thousands of families
Save the Children approached its long-standing business partner Xoomworks Technology to see if they could find a solution to this mission-critical problem.
The team were quick to respond with a sense of urgency, offering to build a solution that would enable Save the Children to massively scale up their Ukrainian humanitarian response to meet the needs of the children and their parents affected by the war. They worked relentlessly with the Save the Children team to deliver pro bono a highly effective, state-of-the-art beneficiary bulk payment system within a matter of weeks.
Notwithstanding the huge challenges, within three weeks, Xoomworks has provided Save the Children with a fully functioning bulk payment upload utility that allows the Save the Children finance team to upload 1000 payments in seconds to our Ukrainian banking partner's electronic banking system. This dramatically increases Save the Children's bulk payment capabilities to families in Ukraine and feeds directly from originally collected data eliminating the risk of manually re-keying this data.
Treasurer, Save the Children
The application Xoomworks Technology built is able to convert Save the Children’s standard excel beneficiaries listing (in turn directly derived from Save the Children’s beneficiary data collection system) to create a custom upload file that is compatible with and uploadable to the Raiffeisen Bank Ukraine electronic banking portal.
From an engineering point of view, it was a medium-complexity task. However, the challenges of collaborating with a team who were operating in a war zone, together with the very challenging Ukrainian Cyrillic script requirement, added additional layers of complexity.
We had great support from Save the Children's Finance Manager and the Bank Advisors in Ukraine who were actually in the war zone. They were able to get on a call with us and explain what they needed so that we could generate the right file format and integrate support from my files in Ukraine. Save the Children was very responsive too and gave us full support in everything we needed.
Senior Software Engineer, Xoomworks Technology
Medium complexity, huge impact
From a client perspective, the impact of the project is huge. Thanks to the rapid solution from Xoomworks Technology, Save the Children now have the capability to make bank payments to thousands of beneficiaries daily. Previously, with manual processing, they were only able to process (at most) a couple of hundred per day, and it was taking far too long to get funds into the hands of the people who desperately needed them.
Within the first month of project completion, eleven thousand beneficiaries received life-saving funds directly into their bank accounts within just 24 hours of registering (beneficiaries that are not just located in Ukraine but who are also located in Poland and Romania, and who have bank accounts in Ukraine).
Furthermore, and currently approx. a further 1,500 beneficiaries are being paid per week with volumes ramping up significantly each week. Without Xoomworks Technology’s bulk payment upload utility, these payment volumes just simply wouldn’t be possible.
Save the Children’s Chief Operating Officer, David Wright, on a recent visit to Ukraine, was thanked by the mayor of Mariupol, saying that Save the Children is their preferred international aid organisation because it’s the only one capable of getting funds to a beneficiary within 24 hours of registration.
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