Supporting refugees to become self-sustainable through cash assistance – meet Jackline, an empowered mother and caregiver
Story by Onok Charles
Okech Jackline, 49 years old is a refugee from South Sudan living in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement. She arrived in Uganda in 2014 with eight children in her care; two sons, five daughters and a nephew.
“We were surrounded by dead bodies.” Jackline recalls. “I saw my husband and his brother lying there. It was so traumatic. We had to run and leave them there as there was no time to give them a decent burial.”
Jackline is one of the many refugees fleeing to safety in Uganda. As of 28 February 2019, Uganda is said to host 1,223,033 refugees with 95 per cent living in settlements in 11 of Uganda’s 128 districts. About 6,622 of these are South Sudanese refugees who arrived in Uganda in January and February, many of whom are survivors or witnesses of serious human rights violations according to UNHCR and OPM.
Jackline who was verified upon arrival in Uganda now collects cash assistance worth two hundred seventy-nine thousand Ugandan Shillings (UGX 279,000) monthly for her family of nine members.
At first Jackline was a beneficiary of the food assistance before voluntarily transferring to the cash assistance modality in 2017.
“I used to struggle to carry the sacks of grain back home on distribution days in the old system. I am a vulnerable person and this was very difficult for me. But now with the cash I receive, I can go to the local market in the settlement during distribution days and buy food in quantities I can carry.”
Cash-based transfer is offered as an alternative to in-kind food assistance with a goal to empower refugees with a choice to address their essential needs in local markets. The project is implemented by Andre Foods International (AFI) in partnership with United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP).
“Since switching to cash assistance, I feel much stronger and healthier. I’ve been getting more nutrients in my diet and as a vulnerable person, this is important. I can buy my household items too. I can feel the benefits.” Jackline says with a smile.
Jackline saved part of the cash she received at every distribution with a goal of opening up a small food vending stall at the piece of land given to her by OPM. Luckily ECO-Fuel Africa constructed for her the kiosk where she now sells charcoal stoves for ECO-Fuel Africa and gets a commission besides selling other merchandise she bought from her savings.