Putting Fresh Food in the Hands of Somali Refugees

WFP has introduced Fresh Food Vouchers for pregnant and nursing mothers in Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. Through this pilot project, mothers receive vouchers to buy fresh food such as meat, fruit and vegetables, which are not part of the usual WFP food basket.

Dadaab – Fartun Abdi squats in front of the mound of red tomatoes in one of Dadaab’s busy markets and expertly selects a few of the best-looking fruits. She hands them to the trader, who puts them in a plastic bag. It’s a simple act but it makes a big difference to the 19-year-old woman, who is expecting her first child in a few weeks’ time.

“I rarely used to eat fruits and vegetables since I could not afford them. Now with these vouchers, I can look forward to having a constant supply, not of only fruits and vegetables, but also meat,” said Abdi, a Somali refugee who lives in Hagadera, one of the five camps in Dadaab.

Fartun Abdi sitting in front of a wall made of brushFartun Abdi outside her kitchen

The Fresh Food Vouchers initiative was launched in August and is funded by UKAid and European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO). The vouchers are distributed at Dadaab’s health centres when women come in for regular checkups during and after pregnancy.

Iqram Rashid, a maternal and child health nurse at one of these health centres, says the vouchers are drawing more and more women to the clinics, and this benefits the women’s overall health.

“Previously, the community health workers would have to go to the homes to look for those pregnant women who were not coming for checkups, but lately there has been an increase in pregnant women voluntarily seeking health care, which is a good thing because if they have any complications, they are detected early and treated,” she said.

As the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, WFP is constantly exploring innovative ways to deliver life-saving food assistance to those who need it while improving communities’ ability to withstand the shocks that cause hunger. Fresh Food Vouchers are part of this ongoing drive towards eliminating hunger and the causes of hunger.

 “Although the key objective of the project is to test an alternative means of delivering food assistance, the Fresh Food Vouchers will also improve the women’s dietary diversity by improving access to fresh, nutritious foods and also giving them the freedom to choose from the market ,” said  Josephine Muli, the programme officer in charge of the project.

The Fresh Food Voucher project is expected to boost trade at the refugee camp as 10,000 mothers will redeem their vouchers for food every month. Traders from both the host and refugee communities have been selected to take part in the project and the beneficiaries are free to go to the traders they choose.