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At the end of March, WFP began the first large-scale distributions of food vouchers to respond quickly and effectively to the growing humanitarian needs of populations that have fled the Central African Republic (CAR).
WFP plans to provide voucher assistance to 53,000 people, including both refugees and returnees who left CAR to escape widespread violence. In total, more than 90,000 have crossed the border between the two countries. Though the majority is Chadian, these people no longer have ties to their native country and do not benefit from a strong support system. They arrive in areas already affected by food insecurity and immediately need assistance. "We fled CAR in a hurry with nothing and arrived in Chad very worried about our situation. But when we arrived at the transit sites, we discovered that WFP was distributing vouchers. Now we have less to worry about because at least we know that our children won't go to bed hungry," says a father of six children in the Doyaba transit center. Beneficiaries receive vouchers that can be exchanged for preselected items at participating shops. WFP works with NGOs and store owners at the different sites to facilitate these exchanges. The first distribution, which took place in the South of Chad, covered needs for one month and went very well. Families appreciated having the ability to choose what to eat and purchase supplies from several stores according to their preferences and needs. Vouchers are the preferred modality—when local markets are sufficiently stocked—for responding quickly to a sudden increase in humanitarian needs. Due to long and complicated transport, the necessary food supplies would arrive much too late. WFP plans to continue using this form of assistance to support vulnerable people in 2014, including Chadian families that struggle during the lean season. However, humanitarian actors present on the ground warn that the situation remains serious. WFP urgently requires new funds to purchase supplies and continue the voucher programme in the south of Chad.