Food vouchers in C.A.R. bring a glimmer of hope

Three years of violence have left a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic (CAR). In the capital, Bangui, the markets have recovered relatively quickly, however. Here, for thousands of people who have been formerly displaced or affected by the crisis, WFP's food vouchers bring a glimmer of hope and comfort.

Photo: food voucher distribution in Bangui. WFP/Bruno Djoyo

Madeleine Wayembo lives in Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, with her eight children, five grandchildren, and her elderly mother. When renewed fighting erupted near her home last September, Madeleine was forced to flee to take her family to safety.

They have since returned home but their situation remains precarious. “We have been living without any resources. Sometimes we go for two days without eating, and for three months we could not afford to buy any meat or fish,” says Madeleine - a widow and sole provider for the family.

Since April, Madeleine has been receiving food assistance from WFP and its partner Oxfam in the form of food vouchers. This enables her to buy oil, manioc (a root vegetable also called cassava, a staple food in many central African diets), flour, groundnuts, meat, fresh and dried fish, and several other items. She can cook for her family, and stock some of the items to feed her family throughout the rest of the month.

Photo: Madeleine exchanges her newly collected voucher fo some food. WFP/Bruno Djoyo

The food assistance has come at a critical moment for her family, she says. “Without this support, our situation would have become even worse,” she says. Though the vouchers can only be used to purchase certain items from markets or shops that are part of the programme, Madeleine says the freedom to choose from a range of items and buy the quantity that she needs is invaluable.  

Photo: Madeleine exchanges her newly collected voucher fo some food. She buys some it at the market, some of it at a shop.WFP/Bruno Djoyo

“The vouchers are like money. I can go to the market with them and buy what my family needs,”she says.

Photo: Time for some dried, smoked fish.WFP/Bruno Djoyo

This year, WFP has provided voucher-based food assistance to nearly 60,000 people in Bangui with Oxfam and other partners.

The latest Emergency Food Security Assessment showed that more than half of the population - about 2.5 million people – face hunger, the result of years of continuous violence and upheaval.

While years of conflict have taken a heavy toll on the people of C.A.R., causing large-scale displacement and disrupting local agricultural production, the markets in Bangui recovered relatively quickly and are able to support the additional demand created by the vouchers.

As markets start to stabilize and return to normalcy elsewhere in the country, WFP aims to increase its use of market-based assistance to reach vulnerable populations and help the recovery of local economies.

Photo: Madeleine is getting ready to cook as she chats with our staff. WFP/Bruno Djoyo

For Madeleine and her family, the vouchers bring a glimmer of hope, and the possibility to cook again a local delicacy – sticky manioc balls and fish cooked with herbs. “Thank you for coming to our home,” says Madeleine. "Thank you for this meal with my family.”

The food voucher programme in Bangui is made possible thanks to the generous contributions of Saudi Arabia, Finland, France, Japan, and USAID. 

Photo: Madeleine's neighbours who are also part of the food voucher programme prepare meals for ther families. WFP/Bruno Djoyo

Story by: Andrea Markham, WFP C.A.R. Photos: Bruno Djoyo, WFP C.A.R.