45-year-old Hassan Khalif Jelle and his family suvives because of the cash assistance from DRC. He is entirely dependent on it because of the drought. If aid does not increase: "None of us will survive," he says. Photo: Tobin Jones / Danish Refugee Council.

Cash is one of the best ways to provide emergency relief

In a crisis, the most effective way to distribute relief is to give families cash so they can then spend, as best suits their needs. Research shows that cash assistance can often provide more emergency relief for fewer funds. In the present hunger crisis in parts of Africa and Yemen, cash assistance is saving lives on a daily basis.


At the centre of Dollow, a town in southern Somalia, people affected by the ongoing drought queue patiently outside a local bank. They wait in line to receive a cash payment of 69 US dollars. Danish Refugee Council (DRC) employees inside the bank manage the project, which is funded by the UN World Food Program.

In response to crises like the current escalating hunger situation in parts of Africa and Yemen, cash assistance is increasingly replacing food rations. Providing cash is in fact often a much more efficient way of providing aid than, for example, emergency food rations. Families are free to manage the sum themselves and purchase what best suits their needs and their purchases help to boost local economies and markets that are also under pressure in catastrophes such as this.

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45-year-old Hassan Khalif Jelle is queuing outside the bank in Dollow. He is one of many who depend entirely on cash assistance:

"I have to feed my children. All of this is due to the drought. We have nothing," he says.


He is afraid of what might happen if the flow of aid to Somalia does not increase.

"None of us will survive. We have no work, the fields dry out, the river dries up and more people from outlying districts come to the town every day. If we don't get more help, very few of us will survive."

Efficient relief

The Danish Refugee Council has solid and positive experience of distributing cash assistance from many of its projects in about 40 different countries. Many studies and experience from implementing cash assistance has shown that, in many cases, cash assistance provides more relief to drought and displacement-affected communities than other methods. 


Cash assistance improves the local population's access to local markets where as food rations has been observed to have an adverse effect on the local economy.

Finally, cash assistance is a more dignified way to help the affected people because they are able to prioritise and choose what they need to meet their own family's specific needs.

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"Especially in an acute crisis, such as the present drought, we have to provide fast and efficient relief. Sadly, we find that the need for help is far greater than the funding at our disposal – which means that it is important that we ensure that our resources stretch as far as possible. Experience tells us that providing cash as emergency aid is one of the best ways to help. Not only for organisations like ours, which can reach many more people in need than would otherwise have been the case, but also for the people who receive our help," says DRC's Head of Emergency Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen.

Four catastrophic hunger situations at once

Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan. The UN has warned that Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are also on the brink of famine. More than 20 million people face starvation across these four countries. The UN announced that the situation may become "the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in the history of the UN". The drought is not confined by borders and is having a serious impact in other countries, such as Kenya, Ethiopia and parts of Uganda.

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The sheer scale of the disaster is placing great demands on humanitarian organizations and other actors working to reduce the effects of the drought. The Danish Refugee Council works in all the ‘four famine’ affected countries and, uses cash assistance a great deal to ensure that aid is delivered as fast and efficiently as possible. That way more lives can be saved.


One of the people getting help through cash assistance is 50-year-old Dahabo Muhamed Ibrahim. She lives in the countryside outside Dollow with her nine children. Her husband is dead and she is now struggling to get through the drought. But it is difficult, she says. It has never before been this bad and the family can no longer eat three meals a day.

"Hunger is a big problem. We need help. Fortunately, I have received a small sum from the Danish Refugee Council today. It means we can get along for a little while. It makes a great difference for us," she says.

How we save lives in Dollow

The Danish Refugee Council is one of the largest humanitarian organizations working in Somalia. We bring water to drought-affected communities, help distribute food and set up toilets in the many new IDP camps, which have sprung up as a consequence of the drought. This way we seek to minimize the risk of infectious diseases. In the area around Dollow in the southern part of the country, we have already helped more than 25,000 people. In the coming months we will significantly increase our efforts in order to save more lives.

In our work with providing help and assistance, we always have a long-term focus to ensure that the affected communities are strengthened against future disasters.

Helping across borders

The UN warns that the on-going growing drought can develop into the biggest humanitarian disaster since its establishment in 1945. Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria have been described as 'the four famines’, but the extensive drought does not know of borders. Countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and parts of Uganda are also severely affected. The extensive drought leaves as many as 20 million people at risk which makes rapid assistance and access to food and water a matter of life and death.

The Danish Refugee Council is present in all of the affected countries and work across borders to help as many people as possible.