UN voucher programme adds more fresh food to diets in Somaliland, aids local economy

A mother buys canned fish from a local vendor using a WFP food voucher in Burao, northern Somalia. Photo: WFP/C. McDonough

15 May 2012 – Thousands of people in Somaliland, in northern Somalia, are getting more fresh meat in their diet as a result of an innovative UN initiative that provides parents with vouchers to help them afford nutritious food from local traders, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Using vouchers gives people greater choice about what food to eat, and gives WFP a powerful new tool for providing food assistance to the most vulnerable,” WFP’s Country Director for Somalia, Stefano Porretti, said in a news release today. “At the same time, vouchers help the local economy by supporting local small and medium-scale producers and retailers.”

Under the programme, people receive $80 in vouchers each month and can use them to buy a variety of food including rice, cooking oil and fresh camel and goat meat. So far, around 15,000 people in north-western Somaliland are being given the vouchers as an alternative to food rations, and WFP plans to expand the initiative to other areas later this year.

WFP has reached about 1.5 million people with assistance in those areas of Somalia to which it has had access since the start of the east African country’s food crisis last year. Long-awaited rains and a good harvest mean that famine has receded, but gains made in food security and nutrition are fragile.

The first phase of the voucher project is linked to WFP’s nutrition programme for young children in Burao, Somaliland. In the past, the family of each child being treated for moderate malnutrition received a monthly ration of food from WFP, but now, with the WFP-provided set of vouchers, families can buy food from local retailers.

WFP is partnering with the Danish Refugee Council to distribute the vouchers, in coordination with Medair, a non-governmental organisation which manages the nutrition programme in Burao.

In the first phase of the voucher project, 13 local traders registered to accept the vouchers, including those who sell fresh camel and goat meat, which are staples of the diet for most people in the largely pastoralist region and can play a vital role in improving nutritional status.

Eventually, WFP plans to expand the voucher approach to relief, recovery and resilience activities throughout the country where market conditions allow. WFP will distribute vouchers seasonally, during harvest periods when food is available in markets, while at other times of the year, the agency will continue providing direct food rations during the lean seasons when supplies are scarcer.


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