18 December 2012

Malawi: Mobile Money Helps to Address Food Shortages in Malawi

Lilongwe — The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has joined forces with the Government of Malawi and mobile telecommunications company Airtel to launch an innovative cash transfer programme to help more than 100,000 people affected by food shortages in central and southern Malawi. Funding for the initiative is being provided by UKAID.

"Cash distributions enable beneficiaries to access the type of food they want," says Jeffrey Kanyinji, Principal Secretary and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs. "At the same time, they stimulate the local economy as the beneficiaries purchase from local vendors." Read story

Working with the Government, WFP and its non-governmental partners are assisting more than 1.9 million people in southern Malawi who have been identified as food insecure due to drought and high food prices. While most of these are receiving distributions of maize and other commodities, a significant number are now benefitting from cash transfers via mobile phone.

"We'll be able to assist some 108,000 people with cash transfers in the most vulnerable communities where food is available in the local markets," says WFP Country Director Abdoulaye Diop. "Given the right conditions, this system works well for everyone."

Participants are provided with low-cost mobile phones and each month they receive a text message entitling them to collect cash from an Airtel agent.

"Airtel Money is a convenient and time-saving way of tranfering cash ," says Airtel Malawi's Deputy Managing Director, Maurice Newa. "We are pleased to be part of a venture which has got so much potential as a means of assisting those in need."

As planned, during the final week of November, WFP and its partners disbursed cash transfers to more than 67,000 beneficiaries in five traditional authorities in three districts. The number of people receiving cash transfers will increase as the lean season progresses, peaking at some 108,000 beneficiaries between January and March.

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