In-depth: Food and nutrition crisis in Niger and the Western Sahel

BURKINA FASO: Food voucher need surpasses resources, WFP says

Cashed-in food vouchers pile up at end of month
OUAGADOUGOU, 10 August 2009 (IRIN) - Continued high food prices and growing unemployment justify expanding food voucher distributions in Burkina Faso, according to a mid-year evaluation by the World Food Programme (WFP) of its largest voucher programme in Africa.

Launched in February 2009, the programme targeted 20,000 households in the capital Ouagadougou and another 10,000 in the country’s second-largest city Bobo-Dioulasso.

The programme is reaching those it should but not enough of the people in need, said WFP’s country director in Burkina Annalisa Conté. “Beneficiaries [of the voucher programme] are the poorest of the poor. Are we getting everyone? No. The need outstrips the programme’s resources.” WFP’s recent evaluation estimated that about 30,000 more people should be receiving vouchers beyond the current 198,000 recipients.

More than 30,000 households have traded US$2.7 million in vouchers for maize, cooking oil, salt, sugar and soap in the two cities; fewer than 1 percent of the vouchers have gone unredeemed, according to Conté.

Just days after the most recent voucher distribution in Ouagadougou started, little remained of the WFP rations in one shop that redeems WFP vouchers. Store manager Fabien Manian told IRIN that from 29 July to 2 August he accepted more than 1,000 vouchers. “They [beneficiaries] come in the first days [after voucher distribution] generally. We just have some salt left – everything else is gone.”

The $5.7-million programme is scheduled to end in December 2009. It was set up as a one-year emergency program to help urban families adjust to higher food prices, which persist even after a strong harvest in 2008.

Increasing food production is not a guarantee of improved nutrition, said director of nutrition services at Burkina Faso’s Health Ministry, Sylvestre Tapsoba.

A preliminary government survey on nutrition and food security, currently undergoing review, said the rate of acute malnutrition is the same in urban as in rural areas – about 12 percent. Tapsoba said it is “no surprise” that market-packed peri-urban areas suffer from malnutrition. “You have neighbourhoods with no water, no electricity where people are packed in like sardines looking for work with not enough revenue to raise their children in optimal health conditions,” the nutrition director told IRIN.

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