Yemen: Focusing on local suppliers, UN agency reaches thousands more in need of food aid

1 August 2016

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has recorded a nearly five-fold increase in the number to whom it has provided assistance in hard-to-reach areas across war-torn Yemen, through an innovative, locally driven voucher initiative.

This month, in the hard-to-reach Taiz governorate district of Al Qahira alone, the agency successfully provided 55,000 people with much-needed assistance through the innovative use of food vouchers using a local supplier’s network.

“Expanding our voucher assistance through a local supplier into Al Qahira is a major breakthrough that allows us to reach every person who needs our assistance,” said Purnima Kashyap, WFP Country Director in Yemen, in a news release issued by the agency today.

“This approach capitalizes on the presence of markets that are working in the areas where we use it, so as well as helping vulnerable families, it also gives a much-needed boost to the local market,” she added.

The increase has been made possible through the Commodity-Voucher through Traders’ Network (CV-TN) project that allows WFP to supply food commodities to families through a contracted local retailer in exchange for vouchers.

Since the launch of this way of delivering assistance earlier this year in Sana’a city, the project has expanded to other parts of Yemen including Aden and Taiz, enabling agency to reach more than 600,000 people compared to only 120,000 in February.

According to the agency, humanitarian organizations had been struggling for months to deliver assistance to conflict-affected people inside Taiz governorate, and despite joint efforts and extensive negotiations, reaching the people in need had been unpredictable and difficult to guarantee.

Furthermore, when access was made available, the number of people that could be reached was limited due to a short window of opportunity.

Each voucher gives a one-month supply of wheat grain, pulses, vegetable oil, salt and sugar as well as Wheat Soya Blend (WSB), a protein-rich blended food provided by WFP through the local supplier. The monthly entitlement is enough to cover the needs of a family of six people.

“Expanding the programme […] is an effective way of addressing access challenges as well as speeding up the delivery of food assistance,” said Ms. Kashyap.

WFP plans to expand its voucher reach to the Al Mudhaffar district of Taiz governorate.

The programme has offered additional benefits as well.

For instance, it has helped create new employment opportunities and is helping the commercial sector back on its feet.

“The retail market was closing down because people did not have the money to buy food on a regular basis, but giving food vouchers to the households and allowing them go to retail markets, they are able to buy food,” said Ms. Kashyap in an interview with UN Radio.

“We have found that many of the markets are [now] able to employ more people because demand has increased and staff are needed to cater to it,” she noted.

The WFP Country Director further added that the agency has monitoring and overseeing practices to ensure that the programme is reaching its beneficiaries. She explained that random site visits are conducted to assess effectiveness and telephone calls are made to the beneficiaries to confirm the receipt of the food packets as well as to take their feedback.

The agency, however added that additional funds are required to be able to reach a targeted one million people across Yemen through the voucher system by the end of this year.

It further noted that a recent study found that more people in the country are slipping into hunger. Out of the country’s population of 25 million, 14 million people are food insecure and close to seven million people are ‘severely food insecure,’ a level of need that requires urgent food assistance.


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