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Sudan: Vouchers And New Skills Put Food On The Table

A refugee from Eritrea, Amna Mohamed has spent most of her life in eastern Sudan. A widow and mother of four, her life has never been easy. But it recently took a turn for the better with the help of a voucher programme that put food on the table while she learned how to embroider and make jewellery—skills that will help her provide for her family.

Amna Mohamed Ali Mohamed learns a new technique for weaving mats, a marketable skill that will one day help her provide for her family. Copyright: WFP/Ahmed Lummumba

A refugee from Eritrea, Amna Mohamed has spent most of her life in eastern Sudan. A widow and mother of four, her life has never been easy. But it recently took a turn for the better with the help of a voucher programme that put food on the table while she learned how to embroider and make jewellery—skills that will help her provide for her family.

KHARTOUM—For over three decades now, Wad Sharifi village in the state of Kassala in Sudan has been home to hundreds of refugees from neighbouring Eritrea.

Amna Mohamed Ali Mohamed is one of them. She was only 14 years old when she moved to Wad Sharifi in 1981. She is now 45, a widow and a mother of four. 

“It’s been a life of constant struggle since I moved to Sudan. But it was much easier when my husband was alive, we helped each other in raising our children,” she said.

Despite the many hardships of life as a refugee, Amna says things have been better since she enrolled in a programme that provides her with WFP vouchers while she learns skills that will help her provide for her family.

Food-for-training

For five months, Amna took part in a WFP “Food-for-Training” programme made possible thanks to funding from the French government. Through the programme, she learned such useful skills as beadwork, mat-weaving, embroidery and reading and writing in Arabic.

During the course, she and other women like her earned a voucher worth 170 Sudanese pounds (about USD $30) per month. The vouchers entitled them to purchase a selection of 14 different foods such as sorghum, millet, meat, fruits, vegetables, ground nut oil, wheat, rice and lentils.

 “My children were very happy that our meals included fruit, vegetables and meat, not like before when we only had lentils and cereals,” said Amna. 

“I am also glad that I am able to pick up my old passion, embroidery, which I had given up since I moved to Sudan. I used to embroider everything I could put my hands on,” she said.

A good investment

Learning Arabic has also made it easier for women like Amna to pitch in on community projects. With the help of a local NGO and through contacts she made through the programme, she was able to build a small pit latrine just outside her mud hut. 

“This programme has been a good investment for everyone involved,” said WFP’s Head of Kassala Office Ahmed Lummumba. “It put Amna and her family in a better position to respond to their own food needs. It helped the local traders, who, in turn, helped the local farmers from whom they bought the sorghum, lentils and other produce that they sell under the programme.”

Over 58,000 people from 12 localities in North Kordofan and Kassala states have benefited from the programme, which was implemented with the help of the French government, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and Sudan Open Learning Organization.