MADI-OKOLLO. The World Food Program (WFP) has supported a total of 62,000 pregnant and lactating mothers and children under the age of two years through the cash distribution project in different refugee camps in the West Nile region.

The one-off cash distribution project is being implemented by WFP under the ‘cash transfer’ program, a project that has been funded by the Swedish government to a tune of 4million US dollars.

The program is aimed at improving nutritional balance for mothers and their children in the West Nile refugee camps.

The project has been implemented in close collaboration with two other projects of the government of Uganda namely; the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) and Northern Uganda Social Action Fund three (NUSAF 3) which are under the supervision of the Office of the Prime Minister.

The assistance targeted women and children from households which are already participating in DRDIP and NUSAF 3 cash-work activities and those receiving enriched food through WFP’s mother-and-child health and nutrition program.

Speaking to our reporter on Thursday, the WFP country director in Uganda, Mr El Khidir Daloum said the money distributed is an assistance in response to food and nutrition challenges exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdown which coincided with food ration cut.

“This is an emergency cash transfer as a result of Covid-19 and its impact on refugees and the host community. This money will not be given on a monthly basis as it is a one-off assistance to help them address the malnutrition cases as a result of the lockdown,” Mr Daloum said.

He said WFP is looking towards improving their access to nutritious foods for the mothers and their children.

WFP CDWFP country director in Uganda, Mr El Khidir Daloum. PHOTO BY JOSEPH ODAMA

Each mother and her child received 96,000 shillings for two months. However, there is no assurance on whether such funding will come again or not if Covid-19 continues to intensify in Uganda.

Both refugees and the host communities who benefited from the cash transfer expressed gratitude and said Covid-19 has had a negative impact on them in the last six months.

“The money given by WFP is going to help. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the reduction of our food ration, life has been difficult in the last six months in my family,” Ms Anna Tabong said.

Ms Roselyn Juru, another refugee said: “For the benefit of my child, this money is going to help me to buy food to improve on our diet.”

Mr Robert Lujang, a refugee who picked the money on behalf of his wife said the cash is going to complement his effort in the family as the lockdown proved tough for him to look for money to buy necessities that cannot be provided by refugee agencies.

Save the Children, one of the NGOs operating in Rhino Camp refugee settlement partnered with WFP to implement the cash transfer program by under taking the registration process of the beneficiaries and verifying them for purposes of eligibility.

Usher KalsumExcited Usher Kalsum, a refugee from Ocea refugee camp showing the money she recieved from WFP. PHOTO JOSEPH ODAMA

“When the lockdown was at its peak, a lot of mothers got malnourished because most of them normally go to markets to earn for their families. But the fact that gatherings were prohibited and movements restricted, a mother who was working for her family was unable to do so leading to a less dietary intake. The lockdown really impacted on the health and nutrition sector” Ms Generous Lhuhalha, the field nutrition coordinator for Save the Children said.

Meanwhile Mr Ben Ade’bo Sua, the assistant settlement commandant for Rhino camp refugee settlement said the assistance has complemented the government’s effort in addressing refugee challenges during this lockdown period. He thanked the WFP and other donors for the initiative.

Mr Ade’bo, however, called upon the beneficiaries to use the money responsibly and warned them against domestic violence as a result of the money given.