Food Aid Vouchers Are Faster, Cheaper Alternative Than Shipping Food Aid Abroad

In this New York Times opinion piece, author Tina Rosenberg reports on the use of food vouchers by some aid organizations in Somalia, highlighting the efforts of World Concern, “a Seattle-based Christian humanitarian group, and its Somali partner, the African Rescue Committee, [which] provide 1,800 families every two weeks with rice, beans, cooking oil, salt and sugar for their tea.”

“With money from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, an association of churches, World Concern provides people with vouchers they can use in the shops of selected local merchants,” she writes, adding that the vouchers, distributed by the African Rescue Committee, are given to merchants who then get a promissory note for reimbursement through an electronic transfer from Nairobi. Shipping food aid abroad is slow, expensive and is often a security problem, she notes, concluding, “Vouchers and cash don’t work in every circumstance” but “[u]sing cash or vouchers is faster and cheaper, … is more dignified and gives families greater choice. And it is a form of aid that helps a whole village” (10/27).

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