A new fresh food voucher system introduced in Ethiopia is benefiting 3,000 South Sudanese refugee families in Tierkidi camp in Gambella.
Early in the morning Nyanget Liem, 24, a mother of two wakes up from her sleep and heads to the place where DCA distributes the fresh food voucher cards. She was holding her second baby, 14 months old. When she reached, there were many women sitting in a circle waiting for their card. “Malle” hello she greeted in Nuer local language and sat down. She is so excited to get her card and try it. “I have seen my neighbours buying food using the card,” witnessed Nyanget “so I cannot wait to get my card and buy food for my baby.” A few minutes after her arrival DCA staffs start to explain how the card works.
Nyanget and other refugees keep on listening to the presentation, while whispering to a person sitting next to them. After the presentation, the distribution of the cards begins and everyone is eager to hear their names. The facilitator called Nyanget’s name, she raised from the floor and went to the distribution table. She then rushed to the market, which is 15 minutes’ walk away from the camp, to try the card and purchase what she has planned for since early morning.
It was an ordinary day for Negash Ayele, one of the 19 vendors of fresh foods, who was chosen for the Fresh Food project. He opened his shop at 9:00 hoping to see his customers. “I heard new cards have been distributed to refugees today,” Negash explained with excited face “So I will sell more than 500 Birr /167 DKK/ today”.
He usually sells carrots, onions and tomatos. With a one-day training, he has received for Dan Church Aid he is acquainted with the smart phone and the card system. Siting inside his shop, which is made of plastic and wood, he sees a female refugee approaching his shop. He stands up and quickly receives her card and ID. Nyanget, who is using the card for the first time, is excited to get a friendly vendor. She asked him to show her the balance on her card. Then she purchased a kilo of tomatos and onions and checked her balance again. Negash thanked her and returned her card with her purchase.
“I easily adopted the system,” said Negash “the only problem that I am facing is during food distribution day when refugees give their ration card / ID to WFP. According to the instruction I got from DCA market facilitators I am not allowed to sell without looking at their ration card/ID”.
There are 52, 257 refugees in Tierkidi.
3,000 households (15,000 individuals) enrolled in a nutrition program
The project targets children 6 to 23 months and pregnant women
Till today the project has reached 1320 HHs
The project is funded by UKAID
Refugees receive a card of 200 Birr/67 DKK/ balance for those who have up to five members and 300 birr /100 DKK/ for families of more than six members.
At 8:30 on Friday morning, all the fresh food voucher staff are extremely busy packing their bags. Today is card distribution day. They collect smart phones, print papers, wear their orange vest, and rush into the car.
After 30 minutes’ drive, they reach the gate of the camp where the vendors are located. DCA staff divide into two groups. The first group stays back and goes into the market. The rest of the group heads to the camp for card distribution.
James Gnang, one of DCA’s market facilitator, always stays in the market to make sure everything goes right. He makes sure that things go smoothly.
“I tell refugees to buy what is allowed,” explains James “I also make sure vendors do not face problems with the smart phones. I have taken phones from those vendors who sell items that are not allowed by the project” he smiles. The only items allowed for refugees to buy are fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and fish.
“The project is progressing well,” explains Tobias Ndiovu DCA humanitarian advisor “when we started there was skepticism. Will the new technology be accepted in the country? Would language barriers pose a challenge?”
However, everything went well, vendors are using the smart phones even if they never had a smart phone before. Beneficiaries as well are using their cards easily. According to Tobias, “there are no major complaints about the system and all the small issues we had will be solved once we create awareness among the community.”