Hibak redeems her WFP vouchers. Copyright: WFP / Susannah Nicol
In Somaliland, thousands more people are getting fresh meat as part of their diet as the direct result of WFP using vouchers. The vouchers are being provided as the family ration to households who have a malnourished child enrolled in the Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme. Local traders are seeing the benefits we well as the money is ploughed back into their economy. Added to that, the number of children being brought for screening has risen, so it's a win-win situation all round...
Hibak is standing in the shade of a tree with her son Mohamed resting on her shoulder. She's jiggling him about in an attempt to get him to sleep so that she can go and get food supplies for her family. But recently this process changed.
Rather than queuing up for a monthly ration, Hibak is using WFP vouchers and buying directly from local traders. Hibak reels off the variety of foods she has bought – rice, dates, pasta, sugar, vegetable oil, flour and even fresh meat.
"This way, with vouchers, you can manage your own shopping and what you buy", she says.
The vouchers, with a total value of $80 per month, are being provided as a family ration to those with malnourished children. The children are part of WFP's Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme, which treats malnourished children under the age of 5 with highly specialized food designed to bring them back to health.
Through this programme, Hibak's nine-month-old son is receiving fortified food. Although Mohamed was breast-fed, Hibak said he was "a skeleton" before the treatment. It is a known that a malnourished child is likely to come from a family that has trouble meeting their daily food needs, especially in the lean season when livestock are weaker and less productive. That is why the family ration is being provided to complement the specialized nutritional assistance. Help in meeting their basic food needs also helps prevent families from selling off their livestock and depleting their assets.
There are currently 13 traders contracted to accept WFP vouchers in exchange for food; some sell the usual staples such as rice and pasta, while others carry canned fish and fresh meat.
"The fresh meat is important as studies throughout the country have shown that the difference between a food secure and a food insecure household is the consumption of meat and milk", says Regis Chapman, Head of Programme for WFP Somalia.
There are other benefits too. Each family gets several vouchers in different denominations, which can be used in different shops at different times. Hibak says that she feels much safer not getting her month's food all in one go. She can hide the vouchers and no one knows she has them. By shopping around between traders and checking their prices, Hibak knows that she's getting the market price for her vouchers. And she doesn't take kindly to anyone trying to rip her off. "One was trying to charge me too much so I threatened to call the complaint number on the back of the voucher and he immediately gave me the right price", she says.
But what brings the biggest smile to Hibak's face is when her family ask for some of the foods they like and she can tell them, "Yes, you can have them!"