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The trend of giving relief food assistance to Kenyans will be cash based, according to Eugene Wamalwa, the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL).

Launching a stakeholders’ consultative meeting on creation of a digital platform, Wamalwa said the envisaged government’s policy shift from physical relief food distribution to a cash transfer system is logistically cheaper and is expected to leverage modern technology and gives dignity and choice to the recipients.

“Giving emergency food supplies in kind to the victims in parts of Kenya has been the trend in the past 50 years in times of drought, floods, heavy winds and other devastating weather-related events,” said Wamalwa.

He said that given the changing times in terms of technology and socioeconomic environment, the innovative system has to come handy in helping affected families.

Wamalwa said that cash transfer is the system logically easier and cheaper to manage than relief food, looking at the high cost of moving food over long distances.

“The cash transfers will also offer beneficiaries a choice to purchase foods of their choice and enhances their dignity as opposed to queuing for the foodstuff,” said Wamalwa.

Stefanie Bitengo, an official from the directorate of special programs, relief and rehabilitation division said that cash transfer is not new to the Kenyan government as to date, as cash transfer for the elderly, orphans and vulnerable children and persons living with a severe disability has been in operation since 2011.

She said that Inua Jamii, meaning uplifting families in Swahili, is helping bridge socioeconomic exclusion and inequality, wealth distribution.

Wamalwa noted that the new system will deal with the perennial problem of diversion of relief food by unscrupulous government officials and improve transparency and accountability.

“The government has plans to integrate all digital platforms under its control to be managed efficiently from one focal point as part of improvement of efficiency through modern technology, “said Wamalwa.

As part of the government’s role in uplifting regional development, he said that a digital platform to distribute relief food will stimulate the local economy.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), through the hunger safety net program, has used the digital money transfer system since 2017.

Mari Hassinen-Agoya, Kenya head of Country Capacity Strengthening of United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), said the UN agency has 15 years’ experience with digital money transfer.

“We have helped 60 countries globally adopt the new system, having started the migration in 2006 with 10 countries,” Hassinen-Agoya.

She said that digital migration is a success in Rwanda where it is used in providing refugees in all camps with monetary support.

The UN official said that global cash transfer is a strategic approach that is fast gaining traction in most countries. Enditem

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