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Mobile cash efficient in curbing hunger in Kenya: charity  

By Njoroge Kaburo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said Monday that mobile phone-driven cash has helped it prevent nearly 250,000 people from slipping into severe food insecurity in drought-ravaged Kenya.

IFRC said the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has given monthly grants of 30 U.S. dollars to more than 41,000 drought-affected families spread across 13 counties over the past three months using the M-Pesa mobile phone-based money transfer service.

“The results speak for themselves, and we hope that this program can be expanded in Kenya and replicated in other countries battling chronic hunger in Africa,” said IFRC Regional Director for Africa Fatoumata Nafo-Traore.

“It’s better for the people in need of help. It’s cheaper and more efficient for aid agencies to implement. And it puts money back into local economies—into the hands of shopkeepers and traders that are key to ensuring the recovery of communities,” he said.

The Kenya Food Security Steering Group’s Mid-Season Long Rains Assessment estimates that 3.5 million people are in need of emergency food relief in Kenya.

The crisis in Kenya is largely driven by prolonged drought, but is also believed to be influenced by underlying poverty and poor preparedness for emergencies.

According to IFRC, an evaluation of the KRCS drought program has found that families receiving mobile cash are eating more often, and from a more diverse menu.   

More than 60 percent of families involved in the program report they can now afford three or more meals per day compared to 20 percent before the cash transfer initiative began.

KRCS Secretary General Abbas Gullet said the money transfer program is transforming the way the charity is responding to emergencies in Kenya.

“Even in very remote parts of the country, mobile phones are widely accessible. It makes it very easy for people to access money and, more importantly, it gives them choice and flexibility in how they spend their money,” Gullet said.

“It helps them maintain a sense of dignity, which is not always the case in humanitarian operations,” he added. In addition to food, families have used the cash to cover essentials like healthcare and education.

The charity is targeting more than 1 million people across the country with a range of services, including support to malnourished children, traditional food distribution, rehabilitation of communal water points and animal offtake and slaughter to cushion farmers from massive asset losses.

A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found out that mobile-money services “have helped raise 194,000 Kenyan households out of extreme poverty, and induced 185,000 women to work in business or retail occupations over farming.”



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