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US provides food vouchers to flood-affected people 

22 Oktober 2010 10:55:00

US provides food vouchers to flood-affected people

ISLAMABAD, October 22, 2010: Under the Food for Peace Programme, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided $12.8 million to address the immediate food needs of 62,500 flood-affected families in Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh.

Implemented by Save the Children, the programme targets remote flood-affected households whose homes have been swept away or completely destroyed, flood-affected families with more than two children under 12 years of age and flood-affected poor households caring for orphans or disabled members. The focus is on vulnerable flood-affected women-headed households.

Each household is provided with a booklet of food vouchers worth $150 (translated into Pak Rupees) to purchase wheat flour, edible oil, pulses and other food items based on their own preferences. This will cover an estimated 80% of the households’ caloric needs for two months. The vouchers are made in small denominations to enable them to spend at separate times or at alternate shops.

This voucher programme complements WFP’s current efforts and targets hard-hit, food insecure communities beyond WFP’s catchment area, and focuses on flood-affected families who have not received or been registered for food support from other sources. Aiming to reach 500,000 people, the voucher programme began in August 2010 and has already reached 18,500 families. The programme is operational in the districts of Swat, Lower Dir, Shangla, Malakand, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, DG Khan, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki and Sukkur districts.

After the identification, verification and registration of beneficiaries, and finalisation of the local shop owners, food insecure families are issued the vouchers, which they are redeeming at identified shops.

Mark Ward, acting director of USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, said: “The voucher programme is addressing the immediate food needs of flood-affected families while supporting local vendors and giving a boost to the local economy.”

Save the Children works through local community structures, local elders, and other community representatives to select the vulnerable households, distributes vouchers directly to targeted households, and pays traders directly. There is no direct cash distribution, rather vendors and merchants are redeeming their vouchers from Save the Children’s district level offices.

Save the Children Country Director David Wright says, “Access to food has been hampered by disruption to livelihoods and massive population displacement caused by the floods. The voucher programme is addressing these access issues without changing the established methods of food purchase as a majority of households in the targeted communities travel to these markets regularly for their daily food needs.”

A key precondition for selecting communities is their access to vendors with sufficient food stock, supply chains, and capacity to address local food needs. Save the Children conducted a market analysis before the programme began to identify vendors with strong established supply chains. David Wright adds, “During the floods the infrastructure was badly damaged, but the majority of markets restarted business early; they are the lifeline for the communities, and merchants understand there is a great demand following a disaster.”

Now with the water receding, merchants are working to bring their businesses to normalcy and almost all commodities that are usually in the markets are now available. Local food vendors are benefiting from this project, as the vouchers are increasing their business and channeling much needed money into the local economy. -- INFN (Infochange News and Features Network)