The World Food Programme's (WFP) golden ticket— a voucher issued in partnership with the Mozambican government— brought new business to local shopkeepers and provided human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and tuberculosis (TB) patients with the ability to access food when they most needed it.
On a Monday morning in Gaza Province, 722 patients waited in the courtyard of Chokwe district hospital for their HIV/AIDS or TB check-up. Down the street, Linda Facicote prepared food baskets of oil, beans, and rice for some of these patients who would stop by her shop later.
The journey for many of these patients starts in their local government hospital. People who are food insecure or malnourished, including pregnant and nursing women, receive WFP’s fortified corn-soya blend (CSB) to make porridge, enough for a month. Through this initiative, WFP supports nearly 46,000 people throughout Mozambique.
Unfortunately, malnourished people with HIV/AIDS and TB face an added challenge, often not receiving the right food to complement their medicine or the nutrients required to strengthen their bodies. In addition to fortified food provided during hospital visits, WFP supports these patients with a monthly voucher redeemable at nearby shops.
“The first months, patients would be unhappy, tired, and complain… but then you learn to be patient and you feel like the community doctor,“ explains shopkeeper Linda.
Just as Linda’s patrons slowly regained their health, so Linda overcame the initial strain of the programme.
“I felt stressed at first that I would not have enough food for people,” says Linda.
However, the savvy local store owner quickly began to buy stocks in advance from other shopkeepers in her community. Once the cash and voucher programme was in full swing, Linda and her fellow shopkeeper friends in Chokwe benefitted greatly from the patients’ new purchasing power.
The first months patients would be unhappy, tired, and complain… but then you understand patience and you feel like the community doctor.
“The true benefit though were the hugs I would get from my customers,” says Linda.
At the peak of the three-year programme, Linda provided food for over 400 patients and their families each month.
Linda knew her voucher customers by name, kept track of their improving health over time, and started buying school supplies for a few of the patients’ children and slipping them biscuits with a wink.
Unfortunately, funding for this programme ran out in May this year.
“Now my former voucher customers sometimes just lie down at the front of my shop because they’re sad I don’t have food for them,” she says. “Then they are sometimes too weak to get up.”
As a voucher travels through many helping hands in Chokwe, recovering from malnutrition is also a journey. It takes persistence and continued support. In a country where 24 percent of the population is chronically malnourished, interventions that match Linda’s dedication are increasingly important.