Cash offers a crucial lifeline in Kenya’s Kakuma camps

Fast and flexible funding helps bridge gaps for refugees

Masoka Dina (Far L) is one of 170,000 refugees in the Kakuma camps receiving nutrition assistance from WFP. Photo: WFP

By Martin Karimi

Masoka Dina is a 29-year-old mother of two living in “Kakuma 2” refugee camp in northwest Kenya. She and her two children were forced to flee their home in the Fizi territory of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), when violence broke out in 2018. Her husband stayed behind to protect their farm and crops.

“I have not been able to reach my husband since I arrived in Kakuma,” says Masoka. “I still don’t know if he is alive or dead.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) supports more than 170,000 refugees in the Kakuma camps with nutrition assistance which consists of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and a monthly cash transfer.

Masoka (R) collects food rations for her family which consist of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil. Photo:WFP

Masoka receives 1,800 Kenya Shillings (about US$16) per month for herself and her children. Cash gives recipients greater freedom of choice and enables them to buy food items that are not provided in WFP’s food distributions, such as vegetables, eggs, milk and sugar. Local economies near the refugee camps also benefit when locally produced goods and food are purchased by refugees.

In Masoka’s case, the cash enables her to buy fish and the chance to make meals that remind her family of home.

This year, cash transfers for refugees in Kenya have been possible thanks to the generosity of EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the Governments of Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Cash contributions from donors can easily be sent to recipients via mobile phones or as vouchers for use in market stalls in the camps. It means donor contributions can be mobilized quickly when our supporters respond to an appeal, such as the ongoing UN Flash Appeal to support the Government of Kenya during the ongoing drought, or when a shortage of funding can lead to ‘pipeline breaks’ — reductions in food for refugees.

Cash can be distributed quickly and efficiently to vulnerable people. Photo: WFP/Alessandro Abbonizio

In October of 2021, WFP in Kenya faced just such a pipeline break, when the organization was forced to further reduce food rations for refugees from a long-term 60 percent of an adult ration, down to just 52 percent.

“Even before the recent ration cuts, we were struggling to stretch the food for the month,” says Masoka. “Life in a refugee camp is difficult and yes, it is peaceful, but we don’t have enough food.”

Masoka hopes to start her own business and see her children through higher education. Photo: WFP

With some additional resources received in the final months of 2021, WFP will be able to return food rations for refugees to 60 percent from January 2022. Refugees in Kenya last received a full food ration in 2018 and WFP continues to work with donor governments and other potential partners in a bid to return rations to the minimum recommended levels.

Despite the hardships, Masoka continues to hope for a better future.

“I yearn for an opportunity to start a business, but I don’t have the money,” she says. “My youngest wants to be a doctor and both children aspire to reach higher education. I just hope I can provide that for them.”

In 2021, WFP’s food assistance to refugees was made possible thanks to the generosity of the governments of Belgium, Canada, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

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Insight by The World Food Programme

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