Despite it being a damp and cloudy day, WFP brought sunshine to the refugee settlement in Kiryandongo recently as they began their first cash distributions. WFP’s objective in giving a cash option is to empower the refugees in meeting their families’ food and nutrition needs.
Sarah Amony, 49, arrives in the rain along with members of 16 other households who are due to receive WFP’s first cash distributions among refugees in Uganda. Quietly, she waits under a fruit tree at the distribution ground in Kiryandongo settlement until the cash van and trucks belonging to a WFP-contracted local bank begin to arrive.
As the bank team gets ready, the South Sudanese refugee takes her place at the front of the queue at the verification desk, her dark plastic bag in hand.
“Even on registration day about a month ago Sarah was the first in the line” someone whispers.
“I am very happy to receive money today because I know it is going to help my house,” Sarah says. “I am a single woman, taking care of five grandchildren. I need to feed them and buy other household items. Money works better for me than food.”
“The first thing I am going to do is stock up on maize and beans and then I will buy some salt, soap and other items.” Sarah adds.
She tells how her son, the father of her grandchildren, was murdered on his way home one night in Kiryandongo refugee settlement so her grandchildren look to her for survival.
Regaining some control
Emile Bazihima, who lines up behind Sarah, adds “I am very happy that I am going to learn once again how to manage money.”
Emile was a government worker in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) before he was forced to flee his country four years ago. Like most of the refugees he is happy that with cash they have the chance to buy exactly the types of food they like and it is also more time efficient.
“I have four young children and a wife who will have another baby anytime now. I need to feed them every day. This money is going to be my principle resource. So I don’t take it lightly. When I received food I had to line up for a long time and had to pay transport costs but with cash, I get served in minutes and then I can go away and take care of other matters.” Emile says
When the cash distribution ends, Sarah rushes home through rough patches of grass “I left my beans cooking on the fire. I am eager to check on them,” she says smiling.
WFP expects that the refugees will embrace the new mode of assistance gradually after years of receiving food only. WFP is supporting an estimated 300,000 refugees in Uganda, most of them South Sudanese and Congolese. While the Uganda government provides the refugees with land to grow food and build shelters, the refugees require additional assistance until they can adequately provide for themselves all the food they need. By providing a cash option to long-term refugees in settlements where markets are thriving, WFP’s aims to give beneficiaries a choice in how to manage their families’ food and nutrition security.