NEW YORK (September 13, 2011)—UNICEF and its partners are starting a food voucher and cash transfer program to reach children and their families affected by famine and drought in hard-hit southern Somalia.
"The magnitude of the crisis, with 336,000 children acutely malnourished, requires all of us to be creative and find fast and innovative ways—at scale—to prevent more children from dying," said UNICEF Representative for Somalia, Rozanne Chorlton. "Shortages of food on the local market have caused prices to increase dramatically in the past year, and food vouchers and cash transfers help to enhance local purchasing power and encourage local traders to bring in more food at affordable prices."
Cash transfers and vouchers in Somalia have already proven effective at empowering families to access food and other essential items on the local market.
This month, through the new UNICEF-supported initiative, 15,000 families in Lower and Middle Juba and Lower Shabelle will benefit from food vouchers or cash transfers to purchase an essential basket of food items. Families are registered through non-governmental organization partners, and the payments are transferred through the local Hawala—a reliable legal system for money transfers. The process will be monitored through third parties to ensure funds reach those most in need.
Food vouchers are also being distributed by UNICEF's education partners to more than 15,000 children attending 212 supervised 'safe spaces' for children. In the absence of school feeding programs, these vouchers provide critical support to affected children while also serving as an incentive to increase school attendance.
UNICEF urgently needs $15 million to enable the cash transfer initiative to be scaled up to reach at least 40,000 families in other affected areas including in Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Middle Juba and Afgooye Corridor, while a further $10 million is required to scale up the food voucher initiative to reach up to 100,000 children and their families through schools in the worst famine-affected areas.
"We urgently need to expand these schemes so we can save the lives of more children," said Chorlton. "To do that, we need funding to be made immediately available."
As well as providing nutrition supplies to 500 feeding centers, UNICEF plans to reach 200,000 families in southern Somalia with a supplementary ration of corn soy blend, which is rich in micronutrients and carbohydrates. More than 97,000 people are already receiving the ration, with numbers increasing weekly as more supplies reach the worst-affected areas of the south.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian aid organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health and immunizations, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency and disaster relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.
UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from 13 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009. But still, 22,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood.
For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, (m) 646.428.5010, email@example.com
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, firstname.lastname@example.org