Somali Refugees in Dadaab Speak Out Against Halt of Cash Aid for Food Essentials

(ERGO) –  Cutting off digital cash transfers intended for refugees at the Dadaab camps in northern Kenya has left Somali families in a crisis to find ample food.

The camp leaders revealed that the cash aid, locally referred to as bamba chakula (meaning “get your food” in the Sheng dialect), was suspended by the UN’s World Food Programme in April due to financial constraints.

Nevertheless, refugee families are still receiving supplies of lentils and sorghum.

Fadumo Omar Ibrahim and her extensive clan of 11 individuals have been grappling with food scarcity at Dadaab’s Hagadera camp for the past two months after the termination of cash transfers.

Fadumo used to receive $45 through bamba chakula, which she used to purchase essential food items like rice, flour, and sugar. She mentioned that they now cook just once a day and have to depend on neighbors for help.

“Our situation is very desperate. We lack everything; we didn’t even have tea this morning because we’re out of sugar. We lack overseas relatives to support us. I can’t work, I’m 60. I typically make canjero (flat bread) in the mornings, and we can’t even afford that. We’re facing tough times,” Fadumo shared with Radio Ergo.

She used to be able to buy powdered milk and clothing for her children. Local stores used to extend her credit, knowing she would pay back once she received her cash aid. Now, she has accumulated a debt of $193 with local shop owners who keep reminding her to settle her dues.

“The shopkeepers come to my place demanding payment, and I don’t have the funds. I would take sugar and tea, but nobody is willing to extend credit anymore; the financial assistance has stopped,” she lamented.

She received her monthly share of 55 kilograms of sorghum and 16 kilograms of lentils for the month, but it was depleted by May 20th.

“We require the bamba chakula because we have no other sources of income. If we don’t receive it and aid organizations stay silent, people will endure hardships,” she emphasized.

Fadumo and her family were forced to flee Mogaanbow village in Jamame district, in Somalia’s Lower Juba region, due to severe drought in 2002 that decimated their four-hectare farm.

Also residing in Hagadera camp, Jaariyo Mukhtar Hussein expressed her struggles in feeding her eight children. Upon learning they wouldn’t receive aid money, she began seeking cleaning gigs but could only secure odd jobs paying about $3 weekly.

She used to depend on the cash aid to buy milk, sugar, rice, and flour for her young kids. Her two-year-old, still nursing, finds it difficult to consume the grains provided.

“We receive 42 kilograms of sorghum, but it isn’t sufficient. There’s no flour, spaghetti, or rice. Our children suffer from diarrhea and vomiting whenever they eat the food supplied. It’s inadequate; the bamba chakula used to provide us with sugar, milk, salt, and tea leaves,” she stated.

She’s anxious about their survival in the camp with scarce job prospects. She can go a week without securing cleaning gigs. Her husband works as a porter, earning irregular wages as well.

“We’re impoverished; my husband heads out to work in the mornings and sometimes returns empty-handed.

We require the WFP and the UN to reinstate the chakula or relocate us elsewhere!” she demanded.

Hagadera camp leader Khalif Dhubow Jelle informed Radio Ergo that halting cash aid would plunge destitute families into a dire situation. Local businesses in the camp have also suffered due to refugees’ lack of funds to spend.

“The impact of the cash aid cut is significant since it was the primary income source for the refugees. The only supplement they receive is sorghum, which stays in storage for an extended period before being consumed. We expected to stay in this camp until our nation stabilized, but now our prospects have been shattered. The money was crucial, and people relied on it,” he articulated.

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