Cash in Uganda: Healthier families, fuller pockets
Peter fled South Sudan in his wheelchair. Now with cash to buy food, he and other refugees are fulfilling their most fundamental needs.
Uganda is now the largest refugee hosting country in Africa — with around 1.3 million refugees. 170,000 of these refugees receive assistance from World Food Programme in the form of cash transfers, which are making a real difference to their lives.
Peter Kuol, a 49-year-old South Sudanese refugee, has felt at home in Adjumani, Northern Uganda, since he arrived at the end of 2013.
“Life is good here,” said Peter. “There are no sounds of guns. There is no one knocking at your door.”
Peter has been confined to a wheelchair following a severe illness in his mid-20s, and the journey from South Sudan to the Nimule border point in Uganda was challenging. After fierce fighting broke out in Peter’s village, his teenage son had to push him in the wheelchair for around 18 kilometres until a bus picked him up. Peter’s son and nephew then ran behind the bus for almost the entire week-long, 400 kilometre journey to Uganda.
In the early days when Peter relied on WFP food, he used to struggle to carry the sacks of grain back home on distribution days. Now with the cash he receives, he can go to his local market and buy food in amounts he can carry.
“Since switching to WFP cash, I feel much stronger and healthier. I’ve been getting more nutrients into my diet, and as I’m vulnerable — this is important. I can feel the benefits.”
“Since switching to WFP cash, I feel much stronger and healthier.”
Akech Mayom, aged 45, fled South Sudan in January 2014, after her village in Jonglei State was set on fire.
“We were surrounded by bodies, I saw my husband and his brother lying there,” recalled Akech. “It was so traumatic. We had to run and leave them there.”
Akech arrived in Uganda, with seven children to care for — her own three sons, three nieces and nephew.
Akech received food from WFP for over two years, and missed the food she used to grow and eat in South Sudan. In 2016 Akech started receiving her assistance in the form of a cash transfer and was delighted.
“We were rich with food in South Sudan before the fighting started. With the cash I get from WFP I can have a similar diet to what I had there. I buy millet, greens, beans and milk,” she said.
“I also can buy fresh vegetables for my children. I am proud I can make this choice for them,” She added.
The WFP cash transfers boost the local economy by around US$ 900,000 every month. The benefits of these cash transfers reverberate throughout the host community. Every dollar of WFP food assistance multiplies by an additional dollar in and around refugee settlements. For cash assistance it is even higher — it multiplies by an additional $1.50.
Research conducted by the University of California, Davis and WFP in 2016 found that an average refugee household like Peter and Akech’s, receiving cash food assistance at Adjumani Settlement increases annual real income in the local economy by 3.7 million Ugandan Shillings (US$1,072). The income multipliers come about when the refugees buy goods from the markets in and around the settlements using cash given to them by WFP.
“When peace comes in South Sudan, we will go back,” explained Akech. “We will remember what WFP did for us, this cash is vital for us to survive.”
WFP’s cash transfers for refugees in Uganda were made possible in 2016–17 thanks to valuable contributions from CERF, DFID, the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), Irish Aid and USAID.
To find out how WFP gets ready to distribute cash in an emergency, watch this:
Video: WFP/Hugh Rutherford