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.
“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.
“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.