Project overview

WFP's Empact, formerly known as Tech for Food, is helping young refugees to build a brighter future and have better livelihoods.

The Problem

As the Syrian conflict grinds into its eighth year, the impact on millions of people has been tragic and indelible. More than 12 million people have been displaced by the conflict, with 6 million remaining inside Syria, nearly 5 million in neighbouring countries, and over 1 million seeking asylum in Europe. The majority of refugees are hosted in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – with nearly 90 percent living outside refugee camps and with host communities.

UN assessments have highlighted that the two primary drivers of displacement for Syrian are lack of safety and the loss of livelihood opportunities at home, which negatively impact people’s ability to afford food. Food is essential and an important source of stability. When families are able to afford and put food on the table, the need to move and leave home often diminishes.

The Opportunity

To address the most urgent needs, WFP is testing innovative opportunities as part of the response to the crisis.  Empact, formerly known as Tech for Food, focuses on creating new and sustainable livelihood opportunities for Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities affected by the crisis, with priority placed on women and youth.

The social and economic impact of technology is widespread and accelerating. Experts predict that up to 90 percent of the world’s population will be connected to the internet within 10 years. These changes herald exciting possibilities and unique opportunities for humanitarians to help those furthest behind.

Working remotely is fast becoming the norm across many industries, with basic digital skills now a requirement for most jobs. WFP's Empact project aims to build digital skills that can empower those we serve to find work without being bound to a local market. This also means tapping into a growing global demand for lower-skilled, labour-intensive services, such as data entry, data cleaning, image annotation, and photo tagging or editing.

Tech for Food
The Solution

As a first step, Empact, formerly known as Tech for Food, provides digital skills through a tailored vocational training programme. Participants receive a six-week introduction to the basics of information technology, which is then followed by six weeks of advanced training. Participants learn how to use Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and other applications. Those in advanced programs are taught skills for front-end web design or 3D modelling software. As the program advances, WFP is partnering with leading technology companies to link course participants with online work opportunities. Projects include image annotation, image segmentation, and data cleaning.

The Impact

Since 2016, WFP's Empact has hosted more than 2,000 training classes across nine campuses in Lebanon and Iraq. The programme, supported by the WFP Innovation Accelerator, has reached 1,500 students, impacting the lives of more than 7,500 people.

classes hosted
people reached
female students
The Syrian Entrepreneur

Anas joined Empact's digital skills programme in Beirut in 2016. After graduating from the basic course, he moved straight into the advanced class, where he built his skills in digital literacy and image annotation, as well as app and web development. In 2017, Anas created an app to provide companies with image annotation services, and started working with agencies in Russia and the USA.

WFP Empact Student
WFP Empact Student
Hope for a Brighter Future
I left Syria 3 years ago. Thanks to the training, I got a job and I joined a community of freelancers, where we network and even became friends.
Swiba, Tech for Food Student
I left Syria 5 years ago and I recommend this programme to any refugees who are disappointed with this world. You will have more opportunities and better jobs.
Yaser, Tech for Food Student
Be Part of the Revolution

Empact is a unique opporunity for the private sector to engage in this crisis, helping to train and employ people in digital skills. If your company or organisation is interested in providing digital work opportunities for Syrian refugees through Empact, please contact

Meet the team

Jonathan Lehmann
WFP Innovation Accelerator
Sandra Raad
WFP Innovation Accelerator
Last updated: 12/02/2019