By Munyaradzi T. Nkomo
In Zimbabwe, drought is threatening the lives of more than 4.1 million people and may increase to 5.2 million during the first quarter of 2017. World Vision has embraced the Last Mile Mobile Solution (LMMS) to reduce costs and improve efficiency in providing humanitarian aid. Since its deployment, the technology has improved food aid and cash distribution, making it easier, faster and more dignified for communities in need.
For World Vision Zimbabwe, the technology has accelerated the organization’s speed in responding to emergencies such as the El Niño-induced drought. The innovation has transformed and expedited the humanitarian assistance process. Now, aid reaches beneficiaries on time as well as making a lasting impact in their desperate situations.
LMMS is a stand-alone digital system with functions including, beneficiary registration, verification, distribution planning and management, monitoring, and reporting. It improves remote data collection, helps manage aid recipients, enables faster and fairer aid distributions, and delivers rapid reporting to aid workers. World Vision developed the technology.
Reaching the Last Mile
The Last Mile Mobile Solution is being implemented in Hwange, Mount Darwin, and Mudzi districts of Zimbabwe under the World Food Program’s cash-in-transit food aid. It is reaching nearly 545,000 beneficiaries. Unlike in the past where humanitarian organizations would expend many hours collecting necessary information, the tool tasks for tracking beneficiaries and commodities. World Vision Zimbabwe Commodities Officer based in Mount Darwin, Fanny Nyaunga hailed the tool, describing it as dependable and user-friendly.
“[Thanks] to LMMS, we now devote less time at a distribution point. For example, depending on the staff levels, we now spend two-and-a-half hours instead of more than four hours we would normally take to give out aid to a case load of 5,067 beneficiaries,” Fanny says.
Since aid is distributed in the shortest possible time, parents and caregivers can concentrate on other household chores instead of standing in line.
Women in Mukoma village of Mt. Darwin welcomed the technology saying it enhances transparency in aid distribution especially where cash is involved. Tangisai Kachere, a mother of three embraced LMMS and explained how it has changed the way they receive humanitarian assistance.
“We started receiving aid in June 2016. I am seeing change with the introduction of LMMS cards. They have reduced the risk of fraud because the information is stored in the card. It’s now different. In the past, one could register false identification information, which was difficult to authenticate. With the card and photo showing the actual person, verification is now easy,” she said.
Susan Dhauka applauded the use of cards in distribution points and reiterated that it reduces issues of theft.
“One of the fascinating aspects of using a card is that there is no way someone can steal from you when receiving cash. That’s when we realized the importance of using this tool,” Susan said.
The USAID-funded program, Enhancing Nutrition, Stepping Up Resilience and Enterprise (ENSURE) project is also fully using the LMMS in the distribution of food to pregnant and nursing mothers as well as the Food for Asset component.
To date over 125,000 households have received food rations through LMMS in Bikita, Chimanimani, Chivi, Zaka, Buhera, and Chipinge districts. This translates to a total of over 627,000 people, assuming an average household comprises five people.
ENSURE Commodity Reporting and Logistics Coordinator, Langton Gwekwerere, said the tool has revolutionized the distribution process. According to him, it reduces time spent at food distribution points during registration and distribution by at least 50 percent for both staff and beneficiaries.
“This tool is convenient. Registration is once off. And the same information can be used in new interventions — saving time and cost of conducting this process again and again,” he said.
LMMS contributing to Core Humanitarian Standards
Southern Africa Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Advisor, Goodson Murinye, said the technology is already contributing to Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS). This is a voluntary code that has nine commitments that organizations and individuals involved in humanitarian response may use to improve the quality and effectiveness of the assistance they provide. The communities they serve can hold them accountable.
“The verification of beneficiaries by their photographs and scanning of ration cards to conduct distributions protects the dignity of beneficiaries. This retains their self–worth…,” Goodson explained.
Photo: Mukoma Villager rejoicing after receiving her monthly share at Mukoma Food and Cash Distribution Point, Mt. Darwin, Zimbabwe. © 2016 World Vision/ photo by Munyaradzi T. Nkomo