The World Food Programme (WFP) Somalia developed the WFP e-Shop to combat food insecurity in Somalia where 4.1 million people were in need of food assistance in 2021. The online food-ordering e-Shop fights food insecurity using a delivery system that helps those facing hunger in Somalia access nutritious, affordable food.
Food Insecurity in Somalia
The food insecurity crisis in Somalia has only worsened in recent years, with COVID-19 threatening to double the number of people suffering from acute hunger in just one year alone. Some of the causes of this troubling trend include:
- Conflict. Armed conflict in 2021 led to the displacement of women and girls in Somalia, making it difficult to access basic necessities including food.
- Climatic shocks. Extreme weather patterns such as drought and flooding have resulted in widespread crop damage. In addition, Somalia endured a desert locust infestation that depleted the remaining crops and pasture in 2019 and significantly reduced food availability.
- COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced remittances due to global lockdowns, ultimately slowing food production and increasing rates of food insecurity.
- Russia-Ukraine war. “Nearly all the wheat sold in Somalia comes from Ukraine and Russia, which have halted exports through the Black Sea since Moscow waged war on its neighbor on Feb. 24,” AP reports.
The WFP estimated that if the rainy season fails, Somalia could suffer from famine by the middle of 2022. A quarter of a million lives were lost when the last famine hit Somalia in 2011. To prevent another crisis, the WFP scaled up its emergency food and nutrition response to reach 3 million people. However, there is a large relief funding gap of $192 million, which means the organization has less than a third of the funding it needs to save lives.
A Technical Response
Trying out a new approach, the WFP in Somalia decided to go technical and launch the WFP e-Shop in 2018, a digital food assistance system. First, users can download the WFP e-Shop on a mobile device. Then, the app enables users to receive food vouchers to shop online from local grocery stores. In 2020, the WFP added a feature that delivers food purchases on the e-Shop to users’ homes. The e-Shop fights food insecurity in five major Somalian cities– Hargeisa, Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa and Galkayo.
The e-Shop app is especially useful in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. During social distancing, online ordering and delivery helped Somalians obtain food while still following protocols. That way, Somalians facing food insecurity can be safe and remain well-fed at the same time. Speaking on the benefits of the e-Shop app during COVID-19, one WFP beneficiary remarked, “It has changed many things in my life such as bringing the food into our houses due to precautions taken for coronavirus, so I am very grateful.” Thus, the e-Shop fights food insecurity in a way that is amenable to changing conditions.
Two years after the launch of the e-Shop, the app completed more than 43,000 successful deliveries with more than 90,000 registered users and 1,100 retailers, according to CTG. More importantly, though, the e-Shop app has greatly empowered local communities and economies. With 100% of the proceeds from the platform going to local businesses, the local economy benefits and bolsters up in the fight against food insecurity. Ultimately, as the innovative WFP e-Shop fights food insecurity, the flexibility and profitability of the app are crucial to changing the tide of the food crisis in Somalia.
– Sarah DiLuzio