about the author
WFP Spokesperson for southern Africa
Richard Lee is southern African spokesperson for WFP. He has worked for WFP for the past seven years in southern Africa, Sudan, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
For Zambia’s poor, collecting precious food rations often involves a long trek to a central distribution point and then a long walk back with a heavy load. But now, WFP is using scratch cards and cell phones to allow beneficiaries to choose when and where to pick up their food.
LUSAKA -- Many Zambians receiving WFP food assistance are now getting their rations in a swifter, more cost-effective way thanks to an innovative approach that requires nothing more complicated than scratch cards and mobile phones. Instead of everyone queuing for supplies at a central distribution site on a specific day, people can now choose when and where to pick up their monthly food assistance.
The SPLASH system requires no new infrastructure, simply a mobile phone network and a local market. Beneficiaries are given a SPLASH card containing two codes. When the first one is entered into the shopkeeper’s mobile phone, it shows him or her how much food to hand over.
Check by phone
The second code is entered once the beneficiary has received the supplies. Immediately after the transaction, shopkeepers can check by phone that WFP has transferred the funds for the food into their account. The man you see in the photo on the left has just done this.
The project was developed in Zambia by WFP with local financial services and software specialists. It is already operational in shops throughout two major towns, Kafue and Livingstone, where 18,000 people benefit. It will eventually be scaled up nationwide and become the standard system for 150,000 WFP beneficiaries.
The mobile delivery and tracking (MDT) system reduces the overheads of traditional food delivery and gives local markets and businesses a central role in providing food assistance to the needy. As people spend less time and effort in securing their food rations, the local economy stands to benefit.
“We want to achieve more than just getting food to people who need it. We want to help leverage our response to hunger so that investments in the poor and hungry can help them build sustainable livelihoods,” said Pablo Recalde, WFP country director in Zambia.