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Cash & Vouchers: An Innovative Way to Fight Hunger

A girl in the occupied Palestinian territory holds up a voucher which she and her family can exchange for food at a local shop. Copyright: WFP/Simona Caleo

WFP delivers hundreds of thousands of tons of food each year but, increasingly, we’re giving hungry people cash or vouchers to buy food for themselves. Particularly when food is available on the market but too expensive for the poorest to buy, cash and vouchers can feed the hungry without hurting the local economy.

ROME—When disaster strikes, markets sometimes collapse and there’s no food to be found. In these situations, WFP steps in with food aid to help people who can no longer feed themselves.

But when markets are still working and food is available—albeit at a price the poorest of the poor can no longer afford—it may make more sense to help them buy it themselves.

That’s the logic behind a number of new cash and vouchers programmes, which WFP is scaling up in many of the countries where we operate.

How does it work? Here are three examples.

Cash for cereals in Zimbabwe

A hard drought and falling remittances have taken a heavy toll in Zimbabwe, where many families are now struggling to stay afloat. Yet, while local food markets have taken a hit, they’re still open for business. To help them stay that way, WFP is giving cash to small farmers like Elizabeth Nyika, who has fallen on hard times and can no longer afford to feed her family.
Find out more

Food vouchers in Afghanistan

A desperately poor mother living in north eastern Afghanistan, Balqisa says she's couldn’t remember the last time she actually got to choose what to feed her children. Now that she receives food vouchers that she can trade in at the local shops, she can have her pick of meat, vegetables, fruit and bread. That means she’s able to provide her kids with something they’ve never had before—a balanced meal.
Find out more

Cash by text in the Philippines

The Philippines is one of the most phone-savvy countries in the world, but it’s also prone to conflict and natural disasters. To get the victims back on their feet in the aftermath, WFP sponsors “cash for work” projects, which provide them with money for food in return for work rebuilding their communities. This money arrives by text message, which participants can redeem for cash at any of several thousand participating shops. Find out more

Why cash and vouchers?

How does it work exactly when a food aid agency gives people cash instead of food? And what about vouchers? WFP's Annalisa Conte answers these questions and more, explaining why WFP is planning to use these options more in the future and in what circumstances they are a valid tool. Listen to the podcast