Niema Cisse, 45 holding her tenth child, 18 months-old Ayshata, still gets goosebumps when she recalls the traumatic day of 31december 2012. On this day unidentified people kidnapped her husband. She was pregnant then. She breaks down while narrating the challenges she has faced since. Northern Mali including Timbuktu has been affected by conflict due to a political, security and economic destabilization where almost two-thirds of the country was occupied by non-state armed groups in early April 2012, which displaced 342,000 people, many of whom took refuge in the neighbouring countries of Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Family and food security situation:
Prior to the disappearance of her husband, Niema and her family survived on farm produce such as millet. Her husband also worked in the transport sector during the off season. But after his disappearance, the entire responsibility of feeding the family fell on her. It was an overwhelming task. She says “the world suddenly appeared dark and strange to me. I didn’t know how and where to start. My life became a standstill.”
Along with her two sons, she wanted to harvest millet this year but due to lack of rains and moisture, the crop failed. She somehow managed to feed her family with one or two meals with the help of her community but it was highly demanding. To add to her woes, her thatched house also collapsed.
Cash Transfer and its impact:
Niema had glitters in her eyes when she was identified by PLAN and the community as a beneficiary for the Unconditional Cash Transfer with a total ceiling of 75,000 FCFA (€ 114) to be distributed in two tranches. In May 2014 she received 37,500 FCFA (€ 57) as the first tranche.
“PLAN came to me like an angel of support and this cash transfer was a life saving tool for my family” says Niema. With the cash, she purchased millets, a calf and repaired her house. Since then, her family is having three meals and residing safely in the repaired house. She plans to sell the calf when it grows. She is well aware of receiving the second tranche of 37,500 FCFA (€ 57) and with that she plans to purchase food, another calf, seeds and clothes for Tabaski (local name for Eid-Ul-Adha). She plans to use the cash to raise calves as well as try her luck with farming.
In the current project, funded by Irish Aid, PLAN has reached almost 3,000 (55% under cash for work and 45% under unconditional cash transfer) beneficiaries. The cash transfer has helped beneficiaries in ensuring immediate food security through the lean season from June to October 2014. Though this can be seen as a small contribution, it has certainly made a life-saving difference for the beneficiaries, improving their food security and regenerating some of their livelihoods. The first post distribution monitoring of cash indicates that more than 75% of people utilised the cash to purchase food, the rest used cash to pay debts and some also purchased veterinary products for livestock.
I had visited this project in April 2014 prior to the cash transfer but in August, I could see a remarkable impact of cash on the lives of people such as Niema. According to WFP’s March 2014 analysis, more than 1.5 million people were food insecure in Mali. During the lean season (June through October), this number is expected to increase to 1.9 million people— meaning that 40% of people in the North of the country will have trouble finding their next meal. The nutrition situation is also worrying this year; an estimated 660,000 children across the country are believed to be at risk of acute malnutrition. Despite continuing instability, families who fled their homes at the height of the crisis are beginning to return in large numbers, placing a huge strain on Malian communities, who must share already sparse resources. This will result in exacerbating the existing humanitarian situation and thus calls for more targeted intervention for these people.