UNICEF starts food voucher and cash transfer programme for children and their families in need in southern Somalia


UNICEF starts food voucher and cash transfer programme for children and their families in need in southern Somalia

Global News 00:42

NAIROBI, Kenya/ HONG KONG, 13 September 2011 – UNICEF and its partners are striving to reach children and their families affected by famine and drought in southern Somalia with the start of a food voucher and cash transfer programme.

On 26 July, a boy eats a meal  his first in a week  following a food distribution in a settlement for people displaced by the drought crisis, in the Wardhiglay area of Mogadishu, the capital. His family has just arrived at the settlement.  By 29 July 2011, the crisis in the Horn of Africa  affecting primarily Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti  continues, with a worsening drought, rising food prices and an ongoing conflict in Somalia. More than 12 million people are threatened by the regions worst drought in 60 years. Some 500,000 severely malnourished children in drought-affected areas are at imminent risk of dying, while a further 1.6 million moderately malnourished children and the wider-affected population are at high risk of disease. Somalia faces one of the worlds most severe food security crises; and as many as 100,000 displaced people have sought security and assistance in Mogadishu, the still-embattled capital, in the last two months, and tens of thousands are fleeing into Kenya and Ethiopia. Famine has been declared in the Lower Shabelle and Bakool areas, and it is believed all of Southern Somalia could fall into a state of famine without immediate intervention. Across Southern Somalia, 1.25 million children are in urgent need of life-saving assistance, and 640,000 are acutely malnourished. UNICEF has delivered supplementary feeding supplies for 65,000 children and therapeutic food for 16,000 severely malnourished children in Southern Somalia, and is working with UN, NGO and community partners to expand blanket supplementary feeding programmes where needed. UNICEF is also supporting a range of other interventions, including an immunization campaign targeting 40,000 children in Mogadishu. A joint United Nations appeal for humanitarian assistance for the region requires US$2.5 billion, less than half of which has been committed.

“The magnitude of the crisis, with 336,000 children acutely malnourished, requires all of us to be creative and find fast and innovative ways – at scale – to prevent more children from dying,” said UNICEF Representative for Somalia, Rozanne Chorlton. “Shortages of food on the local market have caused prices to increase dramatically in the past year, and food vouchers and cash transfers help to enhance local purchasing power and encourage local traders to bring in more food at affordable prices.”
Cash transfers and vouchers in Somalia have already been proven to empower families to access food and other essential items on the local market.
This month, through the new UNICEF supported initiative, 15,000 families in Lower and Middle Juba as well as Lower Shabelle will benefit from food vouchers or cash transfers to purchase an essential basket of food items. Families are registered through NGO partners and the payments are transferred through the local Hawala – a reliable legal system for money transfers. The process will be monitored through third parties to ensure funds reach those most in need.
Food vouchers are also being distributed by UNICEF’s education partners to over 15,000 children attending 212 supervised ‘safe spaces’ for children. In the absence of school feeding programmes, these vouchers provide critical support to affected children while also serving as an incentive to increase school attendance.
UNICEF urgently needs HK$117 million (US$15 million) to enable the cash transfer initiative to be scaled up to reach at least 40,000 families in other affected areas including in Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Middle Juba and Afgooye Corridor, while a further HK$78 million (US$10 million) is required to scale up the food voucher initiative to reach up to 100,000 children and their families through schools in the worst famine-affected areas.

Gérard Bocquenet, Executive Director, French National Committee looks at an internally displaced woman receiving food at a wet feeding centre run by a local NGO and suppored by UNICEF during a visit by UNICEF National Committee members near Wajir town in North Eastern Kenya, September 2; 2011. Photo by Antony Njuguna/UNICEF“We urgently need to expand these schemes so we can save the lives of more children,” said Ms. Chorlton. “To do that, we need funding to be made immediately available.”
As well as providing nutrition supplies to 500 feeding centres, UNICEF plans to reach 200,000 families in southern Somalia with a supplementary ration of corn soya blend, which is rich in micronutrients and carbohydrates. Over 97,000 people are already receiving the ration, with numbers increasing weekly as more supplies reach the worst-affected areas of the south.