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A stimulus plan for Wajir

Kenya, September 15, 2011

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  • community_mobilization_in_wajir_-_mc.jpg
    Community meetings in Wajir. Photo: Jill Morehead/Mercy Corps Photo: community_mobilization_in_wajir_-_mc.jpg
  • mc_employee_ibrahim_confirms_the_beneficiary_selection_criteria_with_community_members_for_cash_programming_in_wajir.jpg
    My colleague Ibrahim confirms the beneficiary selection criteria with community members in Wajir. Photo: Jill Morehead/Mercy Corps Photo: mc_employee_ibrahim_confirms_the_beneficiary_selection_criteria_with_community_members_for_cash_programming_in_wajir.jpg
  • the_road_to_eldas_village_in_west_wajir_-_if_its_this_bad_when_its_dry_imagine_what_its_like_after_it_rains.jpg
    The road to Eldas village in West Wajir. If it's this bad when it's dry, imagine what it's like after it rains. Photo: Jill Morehead/Mercy Corps Photo: the_road_to_eldas_village_in_west_wajir_-_if_its_this_bad_when_its_dry_imagine_what_its_like_after_it_rains.jpg

In Wajir West and Wajir South, many of the people make their living as pastoralists. This means that men and boys often travel with the animals to look for water and grazing land for the herd. Families usually buy on credit from the shops and when the price is good, they sell off animals from the herd to pay back the debt.

However, because some areas haven’t seen rain in nearly four years, many animals have died or are weak and livestock prices are low. This has stretched the local credit system, making it difficult for some families to access food and water.

Cash grants to affected families

With unconditional cash grants from Mercy Corps, these families can purchase food and water, pay back some of their debt, buy critical medicine, pay school fees, etc. They are able to meet whatever their most pressing basic needs are at the time. Providing direct cash assistance to families puts dignity and the power of choice in their hands and provides immediate access to basic needs for each household.

The other day we visited eight villages. When asked what their family would purchase first if they were given cash, we were given the single word “food” in all eight villages.

We visited the first village around 7:15 a.m. and talked to the chief. He brought some elders and some ladies who were willing to speak their minds. They gathered around and we explained the project idea.

Meeting the greatest needs

We discussed beneficiary selection criteria with the group: Was it fair? Was there anything that should be added or removed? Did it reflect the needs in their village? What would they suggest? It was good to hear that the final list matched the needs of the most vulnerable families. We told them the number of households we were able to help in their village. It was not enough.

In an area where even 30 percent of the wealthiest households are living under the survival threshold, targeting is difficult because everyone has basic survival needs. Before we’d even finished speaking with people, the people at the meeting were sitting together to discuss which households should be the first targeted for Mercy Corps’ unconditional cash grants.

It was the same story in all eight villages.

What you can do

People here are mobilizing. They are doing what they can to assist everyone in their village. They are sharing food rations with neighbors, even though their families will eat less. They are helping each other in a way that should set an example for the rest of us.

You can help by doing something as simple as raising awareness. Like Mercy Corps on your Facebook page and repost some of the awareness raising messages are teams are putting there. Send your own message on Facebook or Twitter or just start up a conversation with a friend: “Did you hear about the drought in the Horn of Africa? More than 12 million people are affected.” Thank you.