El-Fasher, SUDAN - Abu Shouk camp in the capital town of El-Fasher in North Darfur has been home to thousands of internally displaced people since it was set up in April 2004. Kaltoum Adam and her family are one of them.
During those nine years, Abu Shouk has been the only home to Kaltoum, her husband and four of their eight children moved to the camp after fleeing their village in Korma some 75 km west of El-Fasher town.
“Four of my children were born in this camp. We’ve never visited Korma since we moved here,” says Kaltoum.
Through all those years, Sadia and Kaltoum’s families and thousands of other families in Abu Shouk relied on WFP food assistance of cereals, lentils, oil, salt and sugar.
But a major change happened in late 2011 when WFP introduced cash voucher assistance in the camp.
“Instead providing the camp’s residents with a set of four food items as we used to do, we are now giving them coupons; each coupon is at a cash value of 32 Sudanese pounds (approximately US$5.8),” explains WFP Programme Officer Abubakar Siddique. “The number of paper coupons corresponds to the number of members registered on each family’s ration card.”
Families can use the coupons to redeem any of the 14 food items available for exchange at the 12 stores in the camp participating in the programme.
Food coupons give them the opportunity to get fresh produce like meat, vegetables and eggs; items that could not be included in conventional food rations.
“I usually get eggs for the children as well as meat, okra and tomato to cook mullah, a local dish that my husband likes,” says Kaltoum.
A Boost to the Local Economy
Introducing voucher assistance in Abou Shouk was a welcome intervention by traders and local producers as well.
“The programme is helping our local economy as it creates a demand for local produce,” said Ali Ibrahim, one of the traders participating in the programme. “However, bringing food into El-Fasher is quite challenging and requires a lot of careful planning and preparation.”
Ali buys most of his grains from Gedaref and North Kordofan while sugar, salt and oil he gets from Khartoum and vegetables from El-Fasher.
“Our roads are not in good condition especially during the rainy season. Sometimes the trucks carrying my cereals get stuck somewhere and arrive here six days later than planned,” explains Ali. “Food prices also very unstable and unpredictable,” said Ali.
WFP checks the coupons’ cash value against prevailing market rates through a Food Relief Committee that constantly monitors food prices in the local market. Members of the committee, who all work voluntarily, also get routine feedback from beneficiaries on the quality of the food they get.
This is all paying off as Siqqiue explains.
“I have been working on this programme since 2009 and have noticed the change in people’s reaction when they come to collect their food,” says Siddique. “Most of them are women and all of them feel satisfied that they are in a position to choose the kind of food they would like their families to have”.
Darfur continues to be the focus of WFP assistance in Sudan. In 2013, WFP plans to reach over 600,000 vulnerable and conflict-affected people in Darfur with cash vouchers.