Somali pastoralists have long known cycles of drought and hunger. It was not without precedent when the rains failed in 2016, but then the next two seasons failed as well. They watched entire herds of camels, goats and sheep wither and die. Generations of wealth disappeared within weeks, and hundreds of thousands abandoned their traditional rangelands for IDP camps in urban centers, where a new aid paradigm emerged. Instead of distributing traditional food aid, which floods local markets with agricultural surplus from western countries, humanitarian agencies began sending mobile cash transfers to displaced people so they could spend according to needs.
Cash transfers now reach an estimated quarter of Somalia’s population. While transfers do little to address the underlying climate conditions, conflict, and political failings that can lead to famine, they may have the ability to stave off the worst hunger crises, and could be the first step towards universal basic income in Somalia.
These photos, taken in a photo booth set up in a camp for displaced people, capture how people use the $60 they are sent every month.