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‘I now have a choice over my meals’ – DRC’s Fresh Food Voucher Programme in Dadaab

The introduction of a fresh food voucher program by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Dadaab refugee camp, has enabled 3000 pregnant refugee women and lactating mothers to access a variety of fresh vegetables and meat from various vendors in the camp. The initiative has also led to the increase of the number of refugee women attending clinics.

The fresh food voucher initiative has brought a lot of benefits for the thousands of refugee women in Dagahaley refugee camp - where DRC has partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) to pilot the initiative for the last one and a half year. Dagahaley is one of the five refugee camps that make up the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya which is the world's largest refugee camp. The whole project is funded by WFP.

"I am very happy with this voucher system, I can now get a variety of food stuff from the market which is important for me and my baby. I now have a choice over what meals I can cook for my baby especially with access to meat," says 33 year old Sadiya Hassan who has a three month old baby and is benefitting from the program for a second time.

The distribution of the food vouchers to the eligible pregnant and lactating mothers usually takes place at the various health posts within Dagahaley camp which is run by MSF. In this way, DRC is able to ensure that the refugee women are attending their regular medical check-ups and are sensitized on the benefits of attending them.

"I have seen many women now attending the clinics and this is good for the general health of the baby and the mother. The vouchers have been a great incentive for many of us to attend the clinics," says Fatuma Ibrahim who is 8 months pregnant with her fifth child.

So the initiative has also contributed to increasing attendance of the refugee women to the antenatal and prenatal clinics provided at the various health posts within the camps.

"Since we started the distribution of the food vouchers, the rate of infant mortality has greatly reduced within the camps. We are able to distribute the food vouchers immediately a refugee woman is confirmed to be expectant up to three months post-delivery of their baby," says Harrison Muema, DRC's Fresh Food Voucher Team Leader.

Once the refugee women have received the food vouchers, they normally visit different appointed vendors located throughout the camps and redeem their choice of vegetables or meat at their preferred grocery shop. The vendors usually receive the food vouchers and cash-in their respective values from WFP at a later date. WFP has appointed 60 vendors throughout the five camps where the refugee women can redeem their vouchers.

"This voucher system has enabled me to have a regular income. I am now able to take care of my seven children and to buy them the items they need for their school," says Fartun Muse who owns a grocery shop in Dagahaley and is one of the WFP-recruited fresh food vendors. Additionally she is a beneficiary of the DRC livelihood training where she also received business skills training and a small grant to start up her business. "I am now planning to expand my business and to start selling solar lights and cold drinks because my income has increased," adds Fartun Muse.

DRC has been present in Dadaab refugee camp since 2010 and has been implementing WASH, livelihood and protection interventions in the refugee camps within Dadaab.