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Somalia: Launch of €6.5m mobile money cash transfer programme

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Mogadishu, Somalia: The European Union-funded Somali Cash Consortium starts its fifth year of operation this week, by launching a €6.5m cash transfer programme to assist over 115,000 vulnerable Somalis.

The United Nations (OCHA) estimates 5.9 million people in Somalia will require humanitarian assistance this year 2021. The humanitarian crisis in Somalia is among the most complex and long-standing in the world. Insecurity, as well as recurrent climatic shocks, perpetuate high levels of humanitarian needs. The threats of desert locusts, Covid-19 pandemic, mixed rains performance have exacerbated the fragile humanitarian situation.

Since 2018, the European Union supported 1.2 million people in Somalia with "mobile-money" a form of digital payments delivered directly to mobile phones. This digital cash can be transferred to any merchant shop in exchange for household goods, such as food, water and non-food items or can be exchanged for hard currency.

"This method of humanitarian delivery has been shown by previous experiences and by studies to be favoured by aid recipients as it allows them to make choices and purchase what they need most," Somalia Cash Consortium Director Alessandro Bini said. "Since it is delivered via mobile phone networks, it is also more easily traceable and does not need to be physically transported, ensuring that there is less of a risk of it being stolen."

This year, the European Union is renewing this support to poor and vulnerable Somali families through seven of its long-standing humanitarian partners which form the Somali Cash Consortium.

In addition to providing multi-purpose cash transfers to meet the essential needs of families in crises, the Somali Cash Consortium aims to develop and improve cash transfer systems that can be predictably coordinated and replicated by the wider humanitarian community.

The ultimate objective is to support the creation of a functional nationwide safety net system, to bring long-term benefit to Somali people, reducing the risks presented by large-scale catastrophes, including famine, and minimising the human and economic costs of repeated crises.

"This is the fifth year that we are supporting this cash assistance programme," states Johan Heffinck, Head of the EU Humanitarian Aid Office for Somalia. "It has proven to be highly effective and efficient in assisting the most vulnerable households."

All households selected by the Somali Cash Consortium for support are extremely vulnerable. Of these, 10% include a disabled family member while 13% include children separated from their parents. Food represents the majority of what they spend their money on, but no family is the same and flexibility to buy what is most crucially needed allows more people to survive with dignity. Repaying small debts to households that shared their food in previous months helps keep social-support networks intact, while buying medicine for an elderly family member or transport to a nutrition treatment facility for a malnourished child can be life-saving expenditures.

The launch of the mobile cash transfers programme is part of the wider mission of the EU and its NGO partners to reduce and end widespread human suffering in Somalia. Thanks to this, tens of thousands of families will be able to provide for their children, stand a better chance of being able to withstand future crises and move towards long-term stability.

Note to editors:

Facts about the humanitarian situation in Somalia

  • A total of 5.9 million Somalis are forecasted to need humanitarian assistance in 2021.

  • A total of 2.6 million Somalis are currently internally displaced by armed conflict, insecurity and/or drought.

  • Malnutrition rates across Somalia remain very high and in 2021 nearly 850,000 children will be acutely malnourished, including 143,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

  • Somalia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. 43 per cent of the population lives on less than US$1 per day. Life expectancy is just 51 years.

Facts about the Somali Cash Consortium

  • Members include Concern Worldwide (Consortium lead), ACTED, COOPI, Danish Refugee Council, IMPACT, Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children International.

  • Established in response to the need to coordinate and harmonize the ever-growing use of mobile-cash transfers in Somalia.

  • Implement in coordination with Federal Government of Somalia the Social Transfer programme SAGAL

Facts about the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO)

  • The European Union with its Member States is a leading global donor of humanitarian aid.

  • Through the European Commission's Civil Protection department and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the EU helps over 120 million victims of conflict and disasters every year.

  • With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, ECHO provides assistance to the most vulnerable people solely on the basis of humanitarian needs, without discrimination of race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.