Cash distributions are bringing dignity and hope

The World Food Programme (WFP) has scaled up its cash distributions in Tanganyika, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Cash from hands to hands with the Trust Merchant Bank partner. Photo: WFP/Jacques David

With the timely contribution of EUR 3.7 million from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), WFP has helped improve the lives of some 111,000 displaced people in Tanganyika province with cash assistance, allowing them access to local markets. We followed some of the people who received cash distributions in June to find out how receiving cash has not only helped save, but also change their lives.

Fanny is an energetic young mother. She is responsible for both her two younger brothers and her baby daughter Zahina. This young family is among thousands of vulnerable internally displaced people (IDPs) driven away from their homes by the 2016 resurgence of the ethnic conflict between the Luba and Twa ethnic groups. WFP’s cash assistance is one of the few lifelines still available to IDPS like Fanny andher family.

At the cash distribution point, Fanny receives EUR 52, allowing her to purchase food and other essentials for the month. Walking briskly, she takes us through the Lubuye settlement, where she lives with 7,500 other IDPs, to a market nearby. After a little bargaining, she buys seven kgs of corn for 7,000 Congolese francs (EUR 4).

The cash Fanny is spending is directly injected into local economy. Photo: WFP/Jacques David

“When the cash distributions were announced, I was so relieved! I immediately purchased enough food for my daughter and brothers. Fish, eggplant and even sauce for fufu (a local corn paste),” says Fanny.

The Tanganyika food crisis is alarming. The latest assessment shows the number of severely food insecure people now stands at 1.6 million people, 42% of the population.

WFP’s cash support has proved to be a crucial intervention. Income generating opportunities are limited in the settlement and the lucky few who can find casual work rarely make enough money to maintain a nutritious diet. With cash, people can afford a variety of food items, which improves their nutritional intake. Adults and children are able to eat more than once a day, something they may not have been able to do for a long time.

Fanny, Zahina and the freshly milled flour at the market. Photo: WFP/Jacques David

“The support we receive from ECHO enables us to undertake large-scale emergency operations supporting the most vulnerable. WFP distributed EUR 840,000 to 65,000 IDPs in March, EUR 1.65 million to 96,000 IDPs in May and EUR 1.2 million to 111,000 IDPs in June”, says Yves Aklamavo, Head of WFP’s Area Office in Kalemie.

Children in the Lubuye and Katinika IDP settlements continue to develop thanks to the support from ECHO and other partners. Photo: WFP/Jacques David

However, cash distributions are only possible if local markets are functioning and the security situation allows. Cash assistance offer several advantages. People choose the goods they need the most, and according to WFP surveys, food is the top priority. The local trade and economy is also stimulated.

Cash allows IDPs to generate further income: Fatouma (on the left) and Papa Salumu (right). Photo: WFP/Jacques David

With a small portion of the cash she receives, Fatouma buys large bags of charcoal, which she divides into smaller parcels and sells to people living in the settlement. The profit allows her extended family to add vegetables to their diet. It has also helped a family member to start a small business.

Like most people living in the seven IDP sites around Kalemie, Papa Salumu fled his village due to ethnic conflict and violence. With his wife and six children, he walked for four days before reaching Katinika site, which today hosts 43,000 displaced people. A hairdresser, Papa Salumu has continued being an entrepreneur. With the cash received from WFP, he first made sure that his family had nutritious food to eat before purchasing hairdressing products. Papa Salumu charges 1,000 Congolese francs (EUR 0.5) for each hairdo and he now has more customers than he used to have in his home village. While the money he makes allows him to send his six children to school, Papa Salumu hopes for the situation to change: “We don’t have a good primary school here and we can’t farm our own land or go fishing.”

Second cycle of cash distribution at the Lubuye IDP site. Photo: WFP/Jacques David

Despite widespread insecurity, WFP and its partners World Vision, Trust Merchant Bank and BDC Anglican have been reaching a significant number of people in Tanganyika.

Insecurity in the places the IDPs call home presently prevents them returning. Until the conditions improve, the support of ECHO (in total 7 million for tanganyika province in 2018) and other donors will continue to be crucial to save lives, improve food security and ensure decent living conditions. Fanny, Zahina, Fatouma, Papa Salumu and thousands of other vulnerable women, men, girls and boys depend on it.

Find out more about WFP in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Jacques David

Jacques David

Humanitarian worker and Communications Officer for the World Food Programme in Democratic Republic of Congo.