Hunger can be fought with more than just food: The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses innovative methods to provide rapid assistance in times of crisis. If the local markets are still functioning and enough food is available locally, the WFP uses cash and vouchers. Those affected can decide for themselves which food they need most urgently and when, as demonstrated by the example of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa.

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The electronic vouchers are charged with credit with which families shop in local supermarkets. (c) Carlos Muñoz/WFP

Project Name

Cash and vouchers for people in need in Somalia

Run Time

January 2016 to December 2018


Somalia/Horn of Africa


What are cash and voucher programs?

In the past 20 years, Somalia has been the scene of persistent violence, political instability and shocks to its climate and economy. This resulted all too often in hunger and malnutrition. About 40 per cent of Somalians are threatened by hunger. 


But hunger is not necessarily caused by a lack of food: a lack of purchasing power may also be the problem. In cases where enough food is available locally but the people are unable to afford it, the WFP uses vouchers and cash transfers, e.g. in the form of electronic vouchers.


What are the advantages?

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The vouchers can be used mainly for basic food: a young woman buys pasta and oil. (c) Carlos Muñoz/WFP

The program allows people to remain independent: they provide for themselves, prepare their accustomed dishes and buy fresh foods like vegetables that cannot be covered by traditional food rations.

The program also stimulates the local economy and allows WFP to save on the costs of shipping and storing the food, as well as structuring the aid more efficiently.


Another advantage of these programs, particularly in case of ongoing crises and after natural disasters, is that they give back a certain measure of normalcy and stability to those affected and help rebuild local infrastructure and markets.


In which cases does the WFP use electronic vouchers?

In Somalia, most people live from livestock breeding or farming. When, in spring 2016, the rainy season never came in Somaliland, in the northern part of the country, the livelihoods of entire families were destroyed. Many were forced to sell their property and borrow money to buy food. The assistance provided by the WFP ensured that they did not have to resort to such drastic means to feed their children.


(c) WFP / Laila Ali
Asha shows the devastating effects of the drought. (c) Laila Ali/WFP

One of the participants in the program is Asha Mohammed Jama: "I've been living here for 35 years, but we have never experienced a drought like this before", she says. "In the past five years, there has been far too little rain. Nothing grows anymore and the animals are dying." The electronic voucher, which she uses to buy food in local stores, is a big help in a difficult time, as this is food she could not afford otherwise.

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World Food Programme

UN World Food Programme (WFP)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, supporting around 80 million people in more than 80 countries each year with food, money and vouchers.

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