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Seeking Acceptance: The Promise of Cash in High-Risk Areas

2011 — By Degan Ali, Kate Churchill-Smith

Somalia is one of the world’s most insecure states with a protracted conflict that continues to profoundly affect its civilians. Thirty-two percent of the Somali population – or 2.4 million of its 7.5 million people – is currently in need of humanitarian assistance (FSNAU, 2011a). The needs are greatest in the South Central regions, an area almost entirely cut off from humanitarian aid due to the heavy fighting and repressive central Al Shabaab control. The Al Shabaab is an armed religious opposition group that has been fighting against the Transitional National Government of Somalia for many years. The group currently controls much of the southern and central parts of Somalia, including a large part of the capital, Mogadishu. The group is classified by the USA, Canada and UK governments as a terrorist organization.

The civil conflict paired with an ongoing drought is impacting the health and wellbeing of the local populations, and has unfolded into a desperate emergency situation. According to the UN, the situation will likely get worse. The continuing drought, rising food prices and population displacement could push a country already grappling with enormous problems into an even deeper crisis (FSNAU, 2011b).

This paper will attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale cash transfers for up to one million beneficiaries in Somalia to address the needs of its local populations. It will delve into the complexities of the current humanitarian crisis, and explain how 20 years of conflict and an ongoing drought are threatening to destabilize even further one of the world’s most vulnerable states. It will describe programming obstacles such as limited access, and large swaths of the South Central zone, where food insecurity is greatest, being run by the terrorist-designated organization, Al Shabaab. This imposes various limitations on the humanitarian community delivering aid there. It will also discuss the problems associated with advocating for large scale cash transfers in Somalia. This paper will also present Horn Relief’s field-level approach to cash transfers, demonstrating its viability and the promise in large scale in a high-risk environment like Somalia.