WFP may increase food cash grants for refugees

Sunday February 12 2017

Burundian refugees line up for food supplies at

Burundian refugees line up for food supplies at Gashora transit camp in Rwanda. PHOTO | DANIEL S NTWARI 

By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

The World Food Programme and its partners could increase the amount of money allocated to refugees for food assistance in a bid to deal with rising food prices.

The WFP provides cash grants to 47,000 refugees living in three out of six camps in Rwanda, but unstable food prices coupled with unstructured markets could push authorities to adjust the monthly allowance to cope with the situation.

Every beneficiary gets Rwf6,300 each month in what is known as a “cash-based transfer.” The allowance is based on the market value of the food basket provided in other refugee camps, according to WFP.

Now, WFP and its partners, UNHCR and the Ministry of Disaster and Refugees Management are considering increasing the amount given to refugees in accordance with rising food prices.

“Our price monitoring showed increases in food prices for certain products, which was attributed to poor harvests due to recent drought conditions in some parts of the country,” said Jean-Pierre Demargerie, WFP country director in an a recent interview with Rwanda Today.

While the latest assessment was carried out in November-December 2016; residents in some of the areas affected by droughts are still surviving on food assistance, meaning the food supply is still low.

WFP says it regularly monitors food market prices. However, some refugees said the monthly allocation was not enough because of the price fluctuations.

“WFP will be considering adjusting the value of its cash-based transfers accordingly,” said Mr Demargerie.

Despite occasional price reductions, food market experts say the trend is for costs to go up as demand increases, and agricultural productivity remains low, in addition to unpredictable weather, which sometimes lowers yields.

Recently, the Minister of Agriculture Geraldine Mukeshimana told farmers to be prepared for insufficient rain in season A.

However, the ministry projects increased maize production this year to at least 781,000 tonnes in the first season, up from 652,000 tonnes in the same period last year.

Production of beans will be over 539,000 tonnes, according to the ministry’s projections.

Last year, the country experienced inflation driven by increasing food prices and some analysts warn of a spike in the medium-term this year.

According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, urban inflation increased by 7.3 per cent in December 2016, compared with the same month in 2015. The increase was mainly due to a rise in the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages.

The cash-based transfer model replaced the monthly general food distribution of maize, beans, vegetable oil and salt in 2014.

Refugees in Mugombwa, Kiziba and Mahama camps still receive monthly food distributions as local food markets are not well developed.

As food markets expand and develop, cash-based transfers could be scaled up to the other camps.