Food vouchers newest tool in UN arsenal to combat hunger in Africa

13 February 2009

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched its first food voucher programme in Africa, targeting 120,000 people in the capital of Burkina Faso who are suffering from the impact of high food prices in urban areas.

Although food is available, it is beyond the reach of many in Ouagadougou, where the prices of basic staples such as millet and sorghum have risen more than 25 per cent in the past year, WFP said in a press release.

“Sometimes it makes more sense to give people vouchers than bags of food,” said Annalisa Conte, WFP Country Director in Burkina Faso.

“This is an innovative solution to hunger needs among people who live in a city where shops and market stalls may be full of produce, but prices are still too high for the poor and the vulnerable,” she added.

Participants in the programme will receive a voucher worth 1,500 francs CFA, or about $3, which they can redeem in shops that have signed a contract with WFP for items such as maize, cooking oil, sugar, salt and soap. Each family will receive up to six vouchers per month for six months.

The agency noted that distributing vouchers instead of food can be a more effective way of alleviating hunger in urban environments where markets are strong, because it cuts down on the cost to WFP of transporting and storing food assistance and helps to inject money into the local economy.

WFP and its partners will also distribute food vouchers in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso for 60,000 people beginning next month.

During the launch of the voucher operation in Burkina Faso, WFP will also hand out rations of Plumpy Doz, a ready-to-eat and highly nutritious peanut-based paste enriched with nutrients, to families with young children.

The voucher operation is being made possible thanks to support from Burkina Faso and Saudi Arabia, as well as a grant from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

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