In DR Congo: "Vouchers make us feel like we’re living a normal life"
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Published on 25 July 2012

Charline Amumazo and her children show some of the food they have purchased with the vouchers distributed by WFP. Copyright: WFP/Stephanie Tremblay

At Mugunga camp, outside Goma, the World Food Programme now provides assistance to people displaced by conflict through vouchers, which can be exchanged for food at the local market.

“I am from Masisi and I am displaced because of the war that is raging there,” said Ndurura Ruhabos, who left his village located about 80km north of Goma and  arrived at Mugunga camp with his wife and 5 children in the middle of the month of June.

“Life is hard here,” he said, taking a break from sewing clothes made of bright Congolese fabric. After abandoning everything to escape from violence in his hometown, Ruhabos was forced to start from scratch. He managed to borrow a sewing machine and started a tailoring business next to his tent. He's working hard, he says, but he doesn't earn enough to properly care for his family.

A few meters away, a man is turning old tires into sandals. Others try to sell whatever they can find, but buyers are few and far between. Many people here are farmers and were forced to abandon their only source of food and income.

All struggle to find ways to reorganize their lives and having enough to eat is high on everyone’s list of priorities.

The World Food Programme provides assistance to people displaced by conflict in DR Congo and here, at Mugunga camp, the agency has introduced an innovative tool to make sure no one goes hungry.

Part of the camp inhabitants now receive vouchers instead of food rations. Families can use the vouchers to buy beans, tomatoes, or whatever food they want at the market located just outside of the camp.

Georgette and Simba Robert Rwamaneno say the vouchers allow them to choose what they eat and they like it.

"It makes us feel like we’re living a normal life," said Georgette. They also like going to the local market, talking and bargaining with the merchants. The vouchers give them a new way to connect and interact with their new community.

At the market, merchants say vouchers are good for business. They have new clients who purchase their locally-produced food.

Charline Amumazo has experienced both types of assistance provided by WFP to the camp residents. She fled her North Kivu village a year ago.

"When rebels killed my husband, I decided it was time to go," she said. At Mugunga with her mother and 9 children, she said the food rations were good but she prefers having the freedom of choosing herself what she will cook for her big family.

"C'est bien, bien, bien,", she says in French of the vouchers as she and her children show onions, beans and oil that she purchased with them.

WFP is mobilizing resources to expand the use of vouchers in areas where local markets are functioning and can absorb additional demand. Since March 2012, the agency has provided food assistance to over 530,000 Congolese displaced by conflict, of whom nearly 350,000 were displaced by recent waves of violence.

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