— IREDD’s monitoring findings report
After three months of monitoring the Liberian government’s food distribution to households and communities, the Institute for Research and Democracy (IREDD) on Thursday, released its findings with 5.5% of the population receiving COVID 19 stimulus food in four months with a serious reservation of flaws and unreasonable procrastination.
IREDD is a leading human rights, governance and policy research organization with over 15 years of experience in monitoring initiatives that place spotlight on public financial management in Liberia.
According to IREDD’s formal report, of the 17 electoral districts in Montserrado County, only in four districts food has been distributed amounting to 23.5%. IREDD said Liberia has 73 electoral districts and only four have been served which is just 5.5%.
“With just four districts served in four months, it will take 12 months to serve communities in Montserrado, and 54 months (4 and a half years) to complete distribution in Liberia at the current pace,” the IREDD’s report noted.
IREDD said out of the four districts monitored, 45 distribution sites were covered while 20 communities and 30,286 households were served.
Considering the pace at which the World Food Program (WFP) is distributing the Government’s stimulus COVID-19 food with only 21 communities receiving in three months; IREDD is recommending to WFP to decentralize the food package distribution or deploy more people in the field to increase the pace of the food distribution.
IREDD said WFP’s strategy is causing a great deal of delay in the food distribution and must be aborted to have the distribution activities in other districts simultaneously.
The report identified some challenges in the distribution as the lack of information sharing from government and the World Food Program due to bureaucracies that limits access to information; skipping of some homes during the enumeration and disqualifying of some households from receiving food, violence and rampant criminal activities at distribution sites, as well as the lack of social distancing.
In its report, IREDD said, if not careful, the gains made in the four districts from the ongoing food distribution could be interpreted as a political game to influence voters in the upcoming Senatorial election as political primaries are held at distribution sites coupled with a slow pace of the food distribution. The report emphasized that even as the current situation stands, citizens are losing confidence and the enthusiasm is fading away.
It is especially taking place at a time when momentum for the senatorial election is getting high with the President having declared publicly that the CDC must claim the Montserrado seat at all cost.
“The government must provide information/update to citizens on the status of the ongoing food distribution in communities including budget expenditure and projected plans of action,” the report said. “WFP and its partners (two locally sub-contracted organizations, the Volunteers for Sustainable Developments in Africa (VOSIEDA), and the Christian Humanitarian Services (CHS) and LISGIS), should speed up the food distribution by deploying more staff in multiple communities and work with the LNP to strengthen security at distribution sites,” said IREDD.
The CHS and VOSIEDA West Africa are responsible for distributing tickets and food to houses that have been numbered by the Liberia Institute of Statistics & Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
IREDD encourages Liberians to access the food distribution data on its online platform, Liberiacovidwatch.iredd-lr.org.
It may be recalled that the Government of Liberia in response to the impact of COVID-19 came out with a plan to provide a stimulus package to mainly the disadvantaged population of the Liberian society. The package contains minimal food and credit assistance to communities around the country.
The food package, as proposed, consists of two 25 kg bags of rice, one gallon of vegetable oil and a 10kg bag of beans to help sustain the disadvantaged family during the pandemic.
But IREDD, in its monitoring report funded by the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI) to strengthen transparency and accountability, has observed lapses in the process as the Government rolls out the stimulus package.
IREDD is conducting site monitoring at food distribution centers to assess how readily the centers are accessible to citizens, whether COVID-19 health protocols are being observed and whether the distributions are impacting citizens as planned.