It is 8.30am and I am waiting at a Cairo bus stop, alongside a queue of fellow early risers. This is not your standard morning commute, however: for many of the people around me, the upcoming trip will go a long way towards improving their daily lives.
Waiting in line are refugee families from Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as local Egyptians. They will receive vouchers that can be redeemed for items to help them through the cold winter months. Save the Children has organised the buses to transport people to our supplier supermarket.
Our biggest Egyptian intervention
The voucher assistance is Save the Children’s biggest emergency intervention in Egypt so far. We aim to reach over 20,000 people by targeting the households most in need of winter assistance. The voucher system gives families freedom of choice: they can be used to buy any items up to the prescribed value. It’s up to the individuals to decide what they most need for their families and homes.
Unseasonably cold weather
Although Egypt escaped the worst of the winter storms that hit the region last month, there was rare snowfall in Cairo and across the country (the first in over 100 years, according to some news reports). The nights in particular are often very cold here and families living in under-equipped homes are particularly vulnerable to health problems.
Nearby, Egyptian mother Fawzia* clutches her one-month-old son Amir*, who is asleep in his baby basket. She says she needs more covers to keep the family warm. After her shopping trip, it is wonderful to see how pleased she is with her purchases – her trolley is piled high with fleecy blankets and pillows, with baby Amir tucked in beside them.
Over the coming weeks, Save the Children will continue to distribute vouchers to families in this area and two other locations in Greater Cairo. Buses will run on a near-daily basis to enable people to pick out the things they need. Speaking to mothers like Wafaa and Fawzia certainly brings home the value of this unusual project.
*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the people interviewed